Most supermarkets provide a stamped label with a "use by" date when you purchase sliced roast beef from the deli. However, this is only a guide and doesn't always guarantee that the roast beef will remain fresh until the date on the label. When properly handled and refrigerated, sliced roast beef retains its quality and is safe to eat for three to five days.
Storing Deli Meat
Deli meat loses flavor and quality quickly once sliced, but proper packaging helps prevent spoiling. Take deli meat home immediately and place it in airtight packaging such as a sealed plastic container or resealable plastic bag, and then store the meat in the refrigerator. If you can't refrigerate the sliced roast beef within one hour, pack the meat in an insulated container with an ice pack. Packing deli meat together with other cold foods also helps keep the meat cold longer.
Although refrigeration doesn't kill bacteria and organisms that cause food to spoil, the cool temperatures slow the growth of bacteria that may be present in the food. Safe storage of deli meat and other perishable foods such as dairy products and leftovers require refrigeration at a temperature of between 34 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, perishable foods keep best when stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator. The best way to determine that your refrigerator is cooling safely is to test several spots with an appliance thermometer.
Is It Bad?
Spoiled deli roast beef is easy to spot when the meat develops a slimy coating or a bad odor. Although these are good signs that it's time to discard the meat, this type of spoilage doesn't always cause illness. Unfortunately, the real dangers are often impossible to spot because pathogens that cause foodborne illness are often odorless and colorless.
Using Deli Meat Safely
Sandwiches made from sliced roast beef and other deli meats are convenient and tasty. However, packed lunches prevent an ideal environment for rapid growth of bacterial if the meat isn't refrigerated. Meat is safe at room temperatures for only two to three hours, including preparation time. Leaving sliced deli meat in a hot car is extremely dangerous. According to Washington State University Extension, bacteria may double every 20 minutes when the temperature is between 90 and 100 F.
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- Iowa State University Extension: Refrigerator and Freezer Storage Chart
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- Kansas State University Extension: Bites -- US -- Pathogens 101 -- Minimizing Listeria Growth in Deli Meats
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension: Food Safety -- Refrigerated and Freezer Storage
- ABC News: How to Tell When Leftovers Go Bad
- Alabama Cooperative Extension Service: Beef Safety -- Do It Right
- Washington State University Extension: How to Pack a Safe Lunch
- Colorado State University Extension: Food Storage for Safety and Quality
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