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Should You Eat String Cheese Left Out of the Fridge?

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It’s a hard decision to make. If you eat it and die, you’ll be really sorry. If you eat it and get horribly sick, you’ll be just as sorry—until you start to feel better, when you’ll finally say, “At least this experience has taught me a lesson, and I’ll never do that again.”

string cheeseSo I placed the safely (?) unopened string cheese in the refrigerator and sat around for five days thinking about it. That didn’t help. So I went to the manufacturer’s website, but they didn’t give a phone number and the email form asked too many personal questions.

So I turned to the world’s greatest string cheese expert, Google.

At Answers.yahoo.com, questioner JuJuBee left her string cheese “under the [car] seat in a sealed package for the last two days” and someone named Brynn’s suggestion, “I wouldn’t eat it,” was voted the best answer. It was also the only answer.

I didn’t want to throw away good food based on one opinion, so I clicked over to Answers.com (apparently unrelated to Answers.yahoo.com), where the single answer by SuzziQ was much more palatable:

“String cheese is individually packaged in a clean environment, is a cultured food, and is low moisture. It can be safely left out of the refrigerator for hours.” She added that it would be fine in a backpack all day, “so long as the backpack is not left lying on the blacktop in the summer sun for an hour.”

SuzziQ, like Brynn, was just one person, so I couldn’t trust her completely. Butbutter at Chowhound.chow.com, all 15 respondents to a question about leaving Monterey Jack and cheddar out all night echoed ballulah’s answer: “It’s safe, you’ll be fine.”

Thew (so sure of being right that (s)he felt no need to capitalize or punctuate) replied, “the french never refrigerate their cheese,” and neither did the commenters on this food site.

“I come from a long line of ‘cheese people,’“ stated romansperson. “…My grandfather would have heartily disapproved of refrigerating cheddar—it detracts from the taste and texture of the cheese.”

Chowhound Smartie leaves butter unrefrigerated on a dish, even in Florida. Whitemist blames Health Department over-reaction on the need to control restaurants’ “handling and serving of larger quantities to a whole lot more people than you or I would. I prefer my cheeses unrefrigerated.”

These were people who thought about food, understood food, left food out overnight and never got sick. I unwrapped my string cheese and took a small bite. And then another. I didn’t keel over instantly.

Mrs. CookwellWhile swallowing my third bite, I visited the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education site, confident that their smiling, hair-in-rollers expert Mrs. Cookwell would approve. Until I read her blog.

Yikes! She didn’t approve of anything:

  • Cottage cheese left out for three hours: “When perishable foods like cottage cheese are left at room temperature for longer than 2 hours bacteria can develop that cause foodborne illness.”
  • Butter at room temperature: “…it will develop a rancid taste.”
  • Cold pizza left out of the fridge: “Absolutely not safe to eat…especially if it has been left at room temperature for more than an hour…”
  • String cheese left out overnight: “No, do not eat the string cheese…it has been left at room temperature for more than two hour [sic] so it may not be safe to eat.”

Oh, no, why did I trust those snooty foodies, so arrogant they think they can make their own safety rules? I ran to the refrigerator and threw out the cheese packet I’d bitten into and the two others that came with it. I quickly dipped a spoon into my overpriced, 100% raw, organic, Active 16+ (whatever that means) jar of Manuka honey and took another dose every couple of hours.

It’s the next day now and I’m fine. I think. Mrs. Cookwell did warn that food poisoning can show up more than a week after consuming tainted food, even though it’s unlikely. Then again, she’s from a different country, where they may have region-specific necessities for such rules. And she did leave the “s” off of “hours” in her string cheese reply. Other aspects of her string cheese beliefs could be wrong, too.

I may never have been at risk, but I have learned my lesson…about string cheese. I still don’t know what to do about the raw, shelled walnuts with a ”best by” date of two months ago, especially after reading on Answers.com, walnuts“…it’s easy to be fooled as rancid walnuts in a sealed bag can look just as good as fresh ones.”

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About Sondra Lowell

  • Mark

    I’ve taken individually wrapped string cheese to work with me for years, never refrigerated. Usually I eat it same day, but “leftovers” (still wrapped) may go an extra day, or even 2. I estimate I eat 50 string cheeses/month, or 600/year, so after n=several thousand samples, I’ve not had any problems.

  • Jessie

    Try googling string cheese and backpacking… Many people I know will take cheese backpacking with them without refrigeration for more than a week – and I have never had anyone report bad results from doing so.

  • Justin

    I routinely eat string cheese that has been left out for days, without notable consequence.

  • Sondra

    Thanks, folks, for being guinea pigs for the less adventurous among us. I’ve started eating bits of left out foods but throwing away more, so as not to bring on the wrath of the listeria monocytogenes.

  • David

    LOL Sondra. Thoroughly enjoyed this after googeling weather my string cheese was ok to eat. Witty and entertaining

    • DLynK48

      EXACTLY!

  • Sondra

    Thanks, David, for letting me know I’m not the only one paranoid enough to google whether my food is about to kill me.

    • DLynK48

      used to call the applicable department in a grocery store before Google! :D

  • Laurie D

    I just figured out what made me sick earlier today was string cheese that had been refrigerated, outside and back in the frig at least one time and maybe two. I was pretty sick, room spinning and sick to my stomach. No more room temp cheese for me!

  • Sondra

    That’s pretty sick. I didn’t even take into consideration what repeatedly taking the cheese in and out of refrigeration might do. At least you’re OK enough to write about it.

  • KatieDoodle

    I definitely appreciate this article. My roommate and I have to defrost our fridge and leave it off for the winter break, and I wasn’t sure if my string cheese would survive the four hour drive back home the next day. I think it’ll be okay though. :) Thank you!

  • Sondra

    Uh…Katie…I don’t know if this is really the definitive article on long lasting cheese. I didn’t even research it on Google Scholar or call a bunch of gastroenterologists for their opinion–just Answers.com, where anybody can claim to be an expert, and Mrs. Cookwell, who’s surprised we’re all not dead yet.

    And then there’s Laurie, two comments above yours: “…pretty sick, room spinning and sick to my stomach.”

    You might want to finish off the string cheese before the defrost and invest in a fresh pack for the four hour drive–or at least an hour of it, before it has a chance to turn into Killer Cheese.

    Which, of course, I’m saying for legal reasons. In other words: Author cannot be held accountable for any adverse reactions to said cheese and advises reasonable precautions when handling anything less long lasting than salt, sugar and dehydrated potato flakes, which can safely be left out for 30 years.

    • DLynK48

      can NOT tell u how glad I am to have left this string cheese out! This blog and MOST of the comments on this particular topic [especially combined together] are simply GUT splittingly funny… yes I lead a considerably boring and uneventful life, but seriously, I NEEDED THIS TONIGHT! Thanks…

  • DD

    Mrs. Cookwell would not have lasted a day in the 1700’s.

  • Sondra

    Good point. Canada wasn’t even a “federal state governed as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy” (according to Wikipedia) till 1867, so there wouldn’t have been a Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety in the 1700s, and she’d have had to find another job, possibly milking cows and making cheese that needed to be left out overnight.

  • Alicia

    Cheese.com offers serving tips
    Chilled cheeses should be taken out of the refrigerator one and a half or two hours before serving.
    Let cold cheese warm up for about half an hour before eating to allow the flavour and aroma to develop.

    In my experience, room temperature has far better flavor than cold cheese. I often eat day old string cheese.

    • DLynK48

      VERY interesting. Thanks!

  • HuntMode

    Sandra, you are a researcher after my own heart, which is how I found you. Yep, found my individually packaged string cheese didn’t make it into the frig… was it safe? Agh! I’m going to risk it…maybe. Grin.

  • Sondra

    HuntMode, let us know if you survive. If not, well, at least your last meal had a better “flavour and aroma” than safely refrigerated cheese.

  • Brandon M

    I’m hoping HuntMode is still alive. I myself am going to risk it as well and eat both packages of string cheese I left out over night. Whatever fate befalls me, I will try to get back here and let you know.

    • DLynK48

      Oye! Now I’m worried! It’s been 2 years….. Brandon! If you are still out there, please let us know. I am about to eat MY 2 pks left out a couple 2-3 days…….. sigh! :P

  • Sondra

    If you can’t get back in your current form, try to send a sign. Like an asteroid or a meteorite. Preferably in Russia or China, where they’re set up to handle such things.

  • cheezy

    this is a really stupid article

    • DLynK48

      Can we maybe keep in mind this is a BLOG, not an advice column. I also did not notice anywhere that indicates this writer is medically certified or licensed in food processing or anything.

      It’s supposed to be funny………. AND/OR make a simple point: it was difficult to find SOLID facts as to whether or not to eat the string cheese. sigh………….. ALSO, one must consider the fact that MOST “authorities” aren’t going to say it’s OK if it’s not been kept under the BEST conditions; they could get sued!

      Try to enjoy it for what it is Hon. I admit, I was a little confused at first…. but can I or CAN’T I? Why isn’t there an ANSWER here? etc………….. but then I got it. GIGGLE

  • prof. cheese

    i took 4 string cheese individual packs with me and didnt get a chance to eat them, walked about an hour in 94F temp. the cheese was in my backpack. when i got home i took two of em and ate em. then i thought are these spoiled? no just warm…tasted fine and ate the other two. out of boredom i looked up how long string cheese lasts, found this page and laughed. found another cheese in my backpack from a day ago, ate that too. one week later similar situation and ate the cheese no problems. you’re one crazy person who worries too much and will cut your life short by trying to be too healthy as it has a decaying effect on lifespan. i.e. you’re making yourself weaker immune-wise.

  • Sondra

    First: I cannot claim to know this firsthand, but I have reason to believe that “cheezy” is not commenter “cheezy’s” real name. In fact, I believe that comment was actually made by Mrs. Cookwell, the Canadian food advisor whose job would be in jeopardy if the truth got out about string cheese and the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education, her boss, found out.

    Second: “prof. cheese” also has a highly suspicious moniker and may not be in the cheese education profession at all. However, this commenter did contribute some worthwhile statistics on cheese consumption, and we may now feel safe eating overheated, week old cheese, as long as we don’t have expectations of living any longer than 7 or 8 days, since we do not know if “prof. cheese” will survive much beyond the time the (potentially poisonous) cheese has been circulating in the professor’s digestive system.

    • DLynK48

      ohhhhhhhhhh Sondra! That was absolutely super! I can’t believe you have no more comments/replies on this! LOLOLOL – I was seriously thinkin something similar about “cheezy” roflmbo!!!! In fact, NOW I have to copy/paste some of these and share elsewhere cuz others deserve the laughter too! <3 ty

  • exeot

    LOL thanks for the read. I was reluctant to eat my string cheese and chose to do so after reading this. thanks?

  • Lisa

    I would just like to point out (somehow without rolling my eyes) that cheese has been consumed since ancient times without refrigeration — it is the sole reason why cheese was invented!!

  • Chyna Roman

    ha ha this is funny. thanks i only left mine out 3 hours but it does taste a bit funny. screw it i am starving.

  • Cori Doble

    I backpack often for a few days at a time. We regularly take blocks of cheese with us into the wilderness and it keeps for several days at a time. Some get a little runny and I stopped taking those, but string cheese and cheddar keep for a long time, as does Parranno Cheese and Jack as well as Parmesan. I wouldn’t take a soft cheese like goat, brie or blue though.

  • Hoosier

    So I left a string cheese in my office over the weekend, and found it this morning. Pretty much all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and half a day today. I said what the heck, ate it two hours ago. So far, so good.

  • Joebobjones

    I found string cheese my co-worker left in my car three weeks ago. Hermetically sealed little packages, I’m tempted to eat one and see what happens. I posited the question on Facebook, and everyone (but one, who encouraged me to eat it…) said DO NOT EAT! It looks fine, but I think I will just toss them.

    • DLynK48

      SOMEtimes it’s best to go with yer gut! :) And I don’t mean AFTER eating it and getting sick… know what I mean? I’ve done that with pizza, but I don’t really care for cold pizza to begin with…… IDK – can’t die if you DON’T eat it… well, not from it being bad anyway. :D

  • meloddic

    I left out my package of 16 cheese string all night until the next afternoon, so I looked it up, to see if theyare still okay to eat….most comments n info said they r okay for a day or 2, as long as not left in the sun. THIS IS WRONG!!! I opened one n it smelled kinda funny, then took a bite n it tasted off….as much as I dont want to waste the other 15 cheese strings, I opened 1 more to see if maybe it was just the one…but as soon as I opened it, it smelled off again. So, I would suggest you smell n if it doesnt smell than taste, but if either dont seem normal eg. Smell or taste, TOSS!
    I love them, especially the mozza ones so rip to the other 14 lil strings lol

    MelODDic

    • DLynK48

      where were they left though? in summer heat? i think, from what i’ve read SO far, the temperature could make a big difference. But idk – i’m eating MINE. There were 2 left in a bag that had a loaf of bread in it! grrrr – But it’s been fairly cool in here this past week. I ate one so far, and it tasted fine. :)

  • OldCheeseEater

    I found a string cheese in my bag that I meant to eat yesterday. It’s been out of the fridge for about 30 hours. It was my only option for lunch. I smelled it and tasted it first and yes, it’s a little funky, but I like funky so I ate it. I do this on a fairly regular basis. I haven’t gotten sick yet.

  • Jade

    I’ve had week old pre shredded kraft cheddar (resealable bag) out for a week and I’ve been eating a little bit in my noodles for dinner every night… I’ve done this before and I didn’t get sick…

    Also, I grew up in a household that didn’t refrigerate butter or ketchup or honey… I never got food sickness…

    • DLynK48

      My daughter wasn’t refrigerating her ketchup – I was worried. I guess I’d never ever NOT done so. :) I read the bottle and told her what it said so I think she has since then, but it wasn’t hurting her OR her toddlers! Honey? I STILL don’t refrigerate THAT! Makes it harder and hard to pour, etc. :D giggle – are we supposed to ???

      I always understood that butter/margarine could be kept in or out – I always decided by the temperature! LOL

      • Sarah

        You’re supposed to _not_ refrigerate honey.

        When it comes to ketchup: have you ever been to a diner or burger joint that didn’t have unrefrigerated ketchup sitting on the tables all day? That said, they go through ketchup pretty fast, so it’s probably only sitting around for a few days. It will stay safe and tasty for longer if you keep it in the refrigerator.

  • easy n cheesy

    I ate 2 string cheese’ that were left in my cooler with a bit of water but no ice for a month…and I think I’m dying….wait..yup I am, but I ate the plastic wrapper as well, to try and mask any bacteria and uh oh gotta go I’m hallucinating…£®©¥

    • DLynK48

      Hmmmmmmmm I hope you are still alive and kickin! :) Thanks for the laugh… That was great. I’ve not read too many comments yet, but I hope there aren’t too many looking to critique every word. The article WAS a little bit odd. I was hoping to find “answers”! However, it IS a “blog” and NOT a nutrition or medical advice site. So, when there WAS no answer in the article, I had to wonder. It didn’t take TOO long to figure it out… Sounds like a few did NOT. :)

      Your reply made me giggle – and like I said, I sure hope you are alright! :D

    • DLynK48

      Hmmmmmmmm I hope you are still alive and kickin! :) Thanks for the laugh… That was great. I’ve not read too many comments yet, but I hope there aren’t too many looking to critique every word. The article WAS a little bit odd. I was hoping to find “answers”! However, it IS a “blog” and NOT a nutrition or medical advice site. So, when there WAS no answer in the article, I had to wonder. It didn’t take TOO long to figure it out… Sounds like a few did NOT. :)

      Your reply made me giggle – and like I said, I sure hope you are alright! :D

  • staycheesysleezy

    my co-worker often eats 2 day old string cheese from his desk. I am worried for his health and this article did not help my argument. you should all feel horrible for giving him a reason to continue this.

    • DLynK48

      Can we maybe keep in mind this is a BLOG, not an advice column. I also did not notice anywhere that indicates this writer is medically certified or licensed in food processing or anything.

      It’s supposed to be funny………. AND/OR make a simple point: it was difficult to find SOLID facts as to whether or not to eat the string cheese. sigh………….. ALSO, one must consider the fact that MOST “authorities” aren’t going to say it’s OK if it’s not been kept under the BEST conditions; they could get sued!

      Try to enjoy it for what it is Hon. I admit, I was a little confused at first…. but can I or CAN’T I? Why isn’t there an ANSWER here? etc………….. but then I got it. GIGGLE

  • thecheesycoworker

    The afforementioned coworker’s doing just fine. Im no doctor, or scientist, but the cheese is wrapped in air tight plastic. theres no germs in it. btw staycheesysleezy knows little about nutrition…he thinks carrots have negative calories… he is a charlaton and fraud, spreading his his ignorance about wholesome foods such as string cheese…

  • Sarah Smith

    I have left an uncooked pizza out on my kitchen side for over 6 hours, will it be okay to cook and eat or will it make me ill..

  • rob

    Jesus stop all the worrying please! science proves that stress and fear causes your telomeres to unravel! your cheese is fine! I have had a 2 pound brick of hermetically sealed Western family cheddar in the cabinet for months and when its done aging I’m going to eat it no sweat, I would feed it to the kids. pirates and sailors used to sail the open seas for up to years and cheese was a main staple think about it !stop worryingi

    • DLynK48

      I’m thinkin JESUS would have just blessed it and fed it to the multitudes! :D

      But really, where do you people get this stuff? :) lolololol I love it! Just thought I’d SAY so.

  • JR

    Just ate a string cheese that’s been in my computer bag for a few weeks. Looked ok, and didn’t smell funny. Was a little drier than normal. Found your site just to get a little reassurance that it wasn’t a really stupid thing to do. Just noticed it does say keep refrigerated on the wrapper – but it doesn’t say keep refrigerated or die. If you hear of a string cheese related fatality in Texas – that was me. ;)