My son made some vegetable soup at school this morning and it's been sitting unrefrigerated in a sealed container all day (~10 hours).

The soup used chicken stock as a base. In trying to determine whether it's safe to eat at this point, would the origin of the stock (freshly made from chicken bones, versus from an instant stock cube or stock granules) make any difference?

  • Clearly the soup was in the danger zone way too long (8 hours too long)...but it is an interesting question. What else is in the soup? Let's say you dissolved stock cubes in water, do the same food safety rules apply? Interesting.
    – moscafj
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 22:20
  • i have a gut feeling anything is safe to be unrefrigerated up to 48 hrs -- REALISTICALLY, not theoretically. i am sure safety perfectionists will disagree
    – amphibient
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 22:28
  • 1
    @amphibient Not true! You can't say "anything is safe unrefrigerated up to 48 hours." We know that bacteria multiply far more efficiently than that! (and gut feelings can get you killed)
    – moscafj
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 1:37
  • @amphibient I think that gut feeling could lead to some different (and highly unpleasant) feelings in your gut...
    – Erica
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 23:59

1 Answer 1


It's probably OK but there are a lot of variables here so from where I sit, it's difficult to be certain. Cooking will kill most bacteria. If the soup went from the pot, hot, to the container and capped immediately, the risk of airborne bacteria getting in is reduced. It takes more than a couple bacteria to get you sick but when conditions are right, bacteria multiply exponentially in a short period of time. If the container was at 72F, that's better than if it was at 90F...as if it was outside in the sun.

You can give it a sniff to check if it smells OK. Reheating to a boil will kill most bacteria, but depending on the specific bacteria, not all. What's more, certain bacteria leave behind toxins that are not easily destroyed. If you have a pressure cooker, that's the best way to kill whatever bacteria might be in there. You would need to keep it in the cooker for a period of time...30 minutes perhaps. Seems like a lot of trouble to go to.

Dry bouillon cubes should not have any bacteria...assuming a clean manufacturing plant. Same goes if you used dehydrated chicken. It's more likely bacteria got in if fresh uncooked chicken was used. Unwashed hands, contaminated utensils, used hand towels, unclean work area...all that stuff comes into play. You probably already know about cross contamination.

But here's the thing? Why risk it? Salmonella will not likely kill you but your stomach will be churning and you'll be spending some time in the bathroom. There are other bad actors out there and they are worse than Mr. Sal Minella... Staphlococcus, E. Coli, Botulinum.

My answer is, to be safe, toss it.

  • I was already veering towards this anyway (esp as it was made in a school cookery lesson and who knows how thorough the hand washing etc. was!). Ah well.
    – Vicky
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 9:43

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