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Food Storage Essentials: Home Preparedness: Some fridge foods safe without refrigeration

Which opened foods often stored in the fridge could be safely used without refrigeration? There is hardly a topic with a greater number of opinions. You may be surprised at what some experts are saying.

"The Association of Dressing and Sauces," representing a large number of major U.S. manufacturers, says "more than 60 years of research has proven that commercially prepared mayonnaise does not cause foodborne illness." Strict standards are used in creating commercial mayonnaise and mayonnaise-type salad dressings using pasteurized eggs and a careful balance of vinegar, lemon juice and salt, which slows and even stops the growth of bacteria. It's foods added to mayonnaise, like chicken, ham or potatoes, that cause bacterial growth in recipes. The association says, "From a food safety standpoint, commercial mayonnaise and mayonnaise-type dressings are perfectly stable when stored at room temperature after opening. Quality, not safety, is the only reason the labels on these products suggest that they be refrigerated after opening. Refrigeration ensures that the commercial mayonnaise keeps its fresh flavor for a longer period of time."

What about using opened ketchup without refrigeration? Heinz says, "The vinegar in the ketchup is what preserves the product. Over time, the vinegar will become a more pronounced flavor, and the tomatoes will turn dark through oxidation. As long as the ketchup is the nice bright red you are accustomed to seeing, there should be no problem from a food safety aspect."

A visit to French's website reveals this about mustard: "Dijon & horseradish mustard will lose their distinct flavors if not refrigerated, so we encourage refrigerating both. For all other mustards, refrigeration will help maintain flavor; however, it is not necessary to refrigerate if you prefer to consume your mustard at room temperature. There are no ingredients in mustard that spoil. 'Refrigerate After Opening' is not required for food safety — we only recommended you do so to maintain optimal product flavor."

Bay Valley Foods, producer of Nalley's pickles, says their pickles and pickle relish after being opened are "good to use without refrigeration if stored in a cool, dry area until the date stamped on the jar (two years from production)."

Jams and jellies will probably last for a little time without refrigeration. Examine them frequently for signs of spoilage (like mold or yeast growth, or off-colors or smells). It was previously thought that mold could be scooped off with the top inch of the jam or jelly, leaving the rest safe to eat. However, the National Center for Home Food Preservation says, "Discard jams and jellies with mold on them. The mold could be producing a mycotoxin (poisonous substance that can make you sick). USDA and microbiologists recommend against scooping out the mold and using the remaining jam or jelly."

Storing the above foods in smaller containers will allow you to get through the contents more quickly without refrigeration, preventing spoilage and preserving their quality and flavor. It is important to store all of these products in the coolest, darkest place possible to preserve their quality, before and after opening.

It's nice to know that without electricity, foods, like those mentioned above, which add great flavor to sandwiches, salads and main dishes, can be safe to enjoy without refrigeration. Of course, once they are combined with other ingredients, the entire recipe should be eaten when there is no refrigeration to hold leftovers safely.