I have a piece of cold smoked salmon, vacuum packed, in my fridge. Unfortunately when leaving the house I turned the fridge off accidentally and left the house for 8 days. The house was unheated and the kitchen is on the north side so is unlikely to have got outside the 4-8C range and the fridge was unopened. I shoved a thermometer in when I discovered and it read below 5.

I'm inclined to think in those conditions it should be OK but I'm not sure. It doesn't look or smell any different than before.

  • The fridge was below 5C? Or the salmon? – Cascabel Jan 3 '14 at 0:13
  • The fridge (and therefore I assume the salmon) – neil Jan 3 '14 at 0:27
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    Was this commercially smoked and packed? Commercial, vacuumed packed smoked salmon is often shelf stable. – Jolenealaska Jan 3 '14 at 3:03
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    I would totally eat this fish. I would totally NOT give it to my child. – Dawood says reinstate Monica Jan 3 '14 at 6:58
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    @Neil In that case, and considering your comment below that says the label doesn't mention refrigeration, I would definitely consider that perhaps the product (unopened) didn't need refrigeration to begin with. Try calling the manufacturer. – Jolenealaska Jan 3 '14 at 20:54

If the salmon was actually nonperishable (perhaps refrigeration was needed only for quality), you're of course fine. You'll have to try to figure that out from the packaging or maybe the manufacturer.

If the salmon needed refrigeration for safety... the danger zone is temperatures above 40F/4-5C. Even in a warm house, refrigerators generally are insulated well enough to keep a safe temperature for up to ~4 hours. (Really old refrigerators, or ones with a damaged seal around the door may not do as well.) So if the room cooled down fast enough, the refrigerator would never have gotten into the danger zone. On the other hand, if it stayed at 10-20C for most of a day, the fridge may have gotten too warm for a while. You can try to guess at this based on your knowledge of your house and the weather, but it's hard to say from here. If you think the salmon spent several hours over 5C, and it needed refrigeration for safety, it's no longer safe. If not, it's fine. Take your best guess, and when in doubt throw it out.

  • I've decided not to risk it - pity because it was good salmon. – neil Jan 6 '14 at 22:35

I would say it is impossible to know, so don't risk it. As you were away for 8 days the fridge could have been above 5 degrees for days then cooled a bit before your return.

  • Unless room temperature got below 5C, how would the fridge possibly cool down without power? – Dawood says reinstate Monica Jan 3 '14 at 6:56
  • Yes you are correct. the room temperature may have fallen to 4 degrees C according to the op. – kippford Jan 3 '14 at 18:31
  • I am not allowed to comment above for some reason. In answer to the packing question. Does it say on the packaging, refrigeration not required? – kippford Jan 3 '14 at 18:35
  • It doesn't say anything about refrigeration - positive or negative - but it does give a reasonably short best before date. – neil Jan 3 '14 at 20:05
  • The question actually makes it sound like the fridge may never have gotten above 5C. It's hard to tell for sure, but it's likely the fridge held a safe temperature at least for several hours, and the house would have cooled down fairly quickly and stayed cold, as evidenced by the 5C final temperature. – Cascabel Jan 4 '14 at 1:58

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