Posted 26 September 2006 - 06:14 AM
One point I'd make is that storage guidelines usually seem excessive because they are designed to practically eliminate the risk of foodbourne illness, by preactically eliminating the conditions that allow pathogens to grow on food. If a given product is said to have certain time/temperature requirements, that obviously does not mean that a person who consumes the product when it has been held outside of those time/temperature requirements will get sick. It doesn't even mean that pathogens will have grown to unsafe levels -- for all we know, the product may never have even been innoculated or seeded with the harmful microbe. All it means is that the conditions were such that that could have happened.
Most of us have many, many experiences violating food safety guidelines and living to tell the tale. For instance, virtually every food safety expert would caution against consuming raw egg yolks because of the risk of salmonellosis, but the truth is that most eggs will not have any salmonella, and you might consume raw eggs your whole life without getting sick. But there is a risk. Some eggs do have salmonella, in quantities that can make you sick. The risk is there, it is just very small.
So the point is that while food safety guidelines sometimes seem excessive (I will continue to use raw eggs), they are not totally arbitrary -- they really are for the most part based on what is known about conditions necessary for pathogens to proliferate on food.
Another point is that the vast majority of foodbourne illness is mild and self-resolves in a short period of time with no medical intervention. The CDC estimates that there are 76 million cases of foodbourne illnesses a year in the US, but that there are only 325 thousand hospitilizations and 5 thousand deaths. So, the serious cases of foodbourne illness are very much the exception -- only like 1/234 will require a hospitization, and only about 1/15,000 will result in death.
Usually the sickened person has no way of knowing why they were sick or whether it was even a foodbourne illness at all. For instance, the people who have been sickened by eating spinach with E. coli O157 had no way of knowing the spinach made them sick.
So, when Rosie says that "she has been using this partiucular recipe for over 30 years and have always left it out for several days with no problems whatsoever," its fair to ask, what does she mean, and how does she know? Does she mean that no one has ever dropped dead, mid-bite, with a forkful of her icing in hand? I'm being facetious, of course, but a lot of people do have an almost as simplistic view of the subject, and dont understand how hard it is to even determine that a given illness is from food, much less a particular food that they consumed 12-36 hours earlier. I think its safe to say that most bakers are not in the habit of asking their customers whether they experienced any nausea or diarrhea within 12-36 hours of eating their products.
"If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?" - Rumi