MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s the time of year for picnics, outdoor wedding and camping trips – which means lots of food outside.

So, Susan from St. Paul wanted to know: How long can food be left out? Good Question.

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According to the USDA, people should never leave perishable food unrefrigerated for more than two hours. If the temperature is above 90 degrees out, food should not be left out for more than one hour.

“Bacteria likes to grow at our body temperature,” says Angie Cyr, acting manager for the food, pools and lodging services section at the Minnesota Department of Health.

She says people should be most concerned about staphylococcus aureus, salmonella enteritidis and E. Coli 0157:H7. Those bacteria can double in 20 minutes.

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Below 40 degrees, the bacteria grows slowly. Above 140 degrees, the bacteria is killed. But, in between that range – what the USDA calls the “danger zone,” the warmer the temperature, the faster the bacteria grows.

“There is a difference between room temperature and really hot car,” says Cyr.

In fact, she says she won’t take leftovers from a restaurant unless she knows she’s headed straight home to put the food in the refrigerator.

Cyr also says, if it’s perishable food, it doesn’t matter the type when it comes to the timelines.

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“The same rules apply no matter the food item,” she says.

Heather Brown