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We have a small, rarely-used auxiliary fridge (dorm-room size) in a storage room. Last week as part of preparing for Passover we took nearly everything from our kitchen fridge that we knew we wouldn't use up before the holiday, and put it in our auxiliary fridge. Now that the holiday is over I went to retrieve the contents and discovered to my horror that at some point during the week it had failed: the compressor wasn't running, the door was slightly ajar, and there were mouse poops all over the lids of our jars.

Some of the contents obviously need to be thrown away: the package of baba gannouj, the open jar of salsa, any packaging with mouse holes in it. Some things are almost certainly fine: the jar of dried zante currants, for example. But some items are less clear to me. Which of the following items are safe to use, after a period of (up to) 10 days without refrigeration?

  • Miso (hatcha, brown rice, and barley)
  • Almond meal
  • Almond butter
  • Sunflower seed butter
  • Baker's yeast
  • Oat flour
  • Brown mustard
  • Coconut flour
  • Arrowroot flour
  • Borage oil
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Hempseed oil
  • Mirin

All of the above are items that we normally keep refrigerated, and I know that they are all items that are best kept refrigerated. But I am having trouble determining which among them must be kept refrigerated.

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    @Catija I'm not wild about that proposed duplicate. I'm all for having a canonical about "how do I figure out if X is perishable?" but that one is about what to do once you know whether it is perishable. cooking.stackexchange.com/q/21068/1672 is much closer to being a duplicate, in that it at least gives examples of some things in each category, but I don't know that it covers all of this. – Cascabel Apr 20 '17 at 17:01
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    @Jefromi : agreed. There are a number of things that are kept refrigerated to slow degradation (eg, rancidity in oil and flours) that if left out at room temperature for a few days won't automatically ruin it. If these things weren't cross-contaminated (eg, someone didn't stick a dirty knife into the mustard), then the only thing on that list that I'm not sure about is the miso (as I'm less familiar with it). The rest I'd check for problems and try to use them up sooner. – Joe Apr 20 '17 at 17:19
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    Mouse poops? That would pretty much put it into the "all" category, for me, but that's probably not technically the correct answer. Keep in mind that mice droppings are particularly nasty, in terms of carrying disease. Handling items, at all, let alone food items (even the external packaging) that have come into contact with mice droppings needs to be done with extreme care. rentokil.com/rodents/rodent-borne-diseases – PoloHoleSet Apr 20 '17 at 18:15
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    I'm with @PoloHoleSet, the mouse poops alone are enough to simply bag it all and bin it. There are some things that are simply not worth the risk. – dougal 5.0.0 Apr 21 '17 at 4:15
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Fridge left ajar and finding mice droppings surely are pretty good reasons to not (over)think too much before dumping all the opened items, at a minimum everything that is not tightly and securely sealed inside a container.. Tossing food is never good, but everything you had said points to doing so out of necessity to avoid any chance of someone getting sick. I would be inclined to dump everything. The inside of the fridge could do with a thorough wash as well before restocking.

Other than that, it would depend on your ambient temperature and what the maximum sustained temperature was inside the unpowered fridge. Normally, if the fridge were not left ajar for visiting pests, most of your contents wold not degrade much if at all for a couple of weeks at 15-25C. Inside a closed fridge, once powered off, the air trapped inside should have a fairly low relative humidity and there would not have a lot of diffusion/exchange with outside ambient air.

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