Can you leave spaghetti sauce with meat out overnight?

In this article, we will answer the following question: Can you leave spaghetti sauce with meat out overnight? We will talk about the dangers of leaving food out of the fridge even for more than two hours, and give you the basic food safety regulations.

Can you leave spaghetti sauce with meat out overnight?

It is not advisable to leave spaghetti sauce with meat out overnight. It is highly unlikely that spaghetti sauce will remain safe to consume if left overnight. At normal room temperature i.e 25 degrees celsius, spaghetti sauce with meat should not be left for more than 2 hours. The maximum it might be able to withstand is 4 hours. Depending on the temperature conditions, the shelf life of spaghetti sauce with meat varies. The lower the temperature, the more the shelf life.

The amount of 24 hours is excessive. Suppose the outside temperature is also that of a domestic kitchen (20º to 28º C). In that case, the rice or pasta dish incorporates sauce with meat or cheese, and the consumers of the dish are a population at risk (sick, pregnant …) the risk of food poisoning is very high. 

It should be noted that after two hours without refrigeration, bacterial growth occurs, so ideally we would have the food cooked outside the refrigerator for a maximum of two hours. And if the ambient temperature is high, a maximum of one hour.

Food kept out and the “Bacillus cereus” bacteria

If you decide to leave spaghetti sauce with meat out overnight, the food may be infected by the Bacillus cereus bacteria. It has two capacities: that of forming spores (forms of resistance to which some bacteria pass when under adverse conditions) and that of manufacturing toxins of two types, one diarrheal and the other emetic (vomiting). 

It is not considered a very dangerous pathogenic bacterium because in principle it does not cause severe food poisoning (TIA) unless it’s diarrheal form affects immunocompromised people who see how the bacteria colonize their intestines and manufacture toxin. 

The problem with the bacterium “Bacillus cereus” is its ability to manufacture toxins when under favorable conditions. In this sense, experts warn that, besides, emetics are heat resistant (90 minutes at 121ºC). 

It is a bacterium that is very present in the field and in soils and when the humidity and temperature conditions are adverse, it manufactures spores that can remain attached to all types of vegetables from ground level (potatoes, rice …) being very difficult to eliminate with classic cleaning systems. If it reaches processed food, it is due to poor handling and cleaning practices.

Refrigeration as a prevention

The habit of leaving food on the kitchen counter without putting it in the refrigerator is more frequent than it seems. Although the incidence of poisoning by the bacterium “bacillus cereus” is minimal, it is advisable to follow the guidelines of conservation and official refrigeration of food.

The ideal way to avoid this bacterium’s growth is to store the cooked food once it has cooled in the refrigerator at a temperature below 5ºC. Or, for greater safety and if it is to be consumed a few days later, keep it in the freezer.

According to the recommendations of the FDA, once cooked, the food should be placed in suitable containers and should not be left out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours, or more than an hour if the temperature is greater than 30ºC.

In the case of salmonella, the recommendation is stricter because in less than 2 hours out of the refrigerator an omelet “with little set egg”, or a homemade mayonnaise, or even fish and meat, can be potentially dangerous to health.

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Food safety regulations

The basic rules to follow to maintain food hygiene and prevent contamination are, according to FDA:

  • Cleaning  To prevent the spread of microorganisms through utensils and surfaces used during food preparation and storage, it is essential to:

Wash hands with hot soapy water before preparing food and after using the bathroom or handling pets.

Clean surfaces and utensils that come into contact with food with hot soapy water before and after use.

Wash foods that are to be consumed raw (vegetables and fruits that are eaten with their skin on). You can add three or four drops of special bleach to disinfect food to the water used to wash vegetables. Always keep the refrigerator clean.

Separation of raw and cooked foods. To avoid cross contamination, which occurs when microorganisms spread from one food product to another:

Place fresh food (meat, fish, vegetables) in the refrigerator separately from those already prepared to be consumed.

Do not use the same utensils (plates, cutting boards, cutlery) for cooked and raw food.

  • Cooking food: cooking, frying, or heating eliminates microorganisms present in food that can cause diseases. The cooking temperature must be above 70 ºC.

If the microwave is used for cooking or heating food, it must be covered to prevent cold areas where microorganisms can survive.

Boil sauces, soups, or food leftovers when they are reheated to consume them.

When reheating a previously cooked food that has been refrigerated or defrosted, we must ensure that all parts of the food, including the center of it, reach at least a temperature of 70ºC, for at least 15 seconds. The ideal is to reheat only the amount to be consumed, thus avoiding multiple overheating that increases the chances of poisoning.

  • Refrigeration and preservation of food: if carried out immediately after purchase or preparation, low temperatures prevent microorganisms that may be present in them from growing and multiplying.

Refrigerate or freeze perishable food, those already prepared to consume, and food leftovers that will be reused within a maximum period of 2 hours.

Do not defrost food at room temperature, it should be defrosted in the refrigerator or in the microwave.

When a product is defrosted, it should be cooked as soon as possible, and food that has been previously defrosted should never be refrozen. It is important to freeze in portions to avoid having to reheat everything. You only have to reheat what you are going to eat.

Do not overfill the refrigerator, to allow proper circulation of cold air to keep food in good condition.


We remind you that once cooked, the food should be placed in suitable containers and should not be left out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours, or more than an hour if the temperature is greater than 30ºC.

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