Saturday, August 4, 2007


Does ketchup need refrigerating?

Perhaps the first thing that got me to think of this topic. Of course you put ketchup in the refrigerator. Everyone does. Yet, we use plenty of unrefrigerated ketchup at diners, restaurants, and ball games. You know it's just sitting there for hours, maybe days on end. Wouldn't it go bad? Maybe these places use it so fast that it can't go bad. Or maybe not.

Well, first, what is ketchup? Tomatoes of course. Spices. Vinegar. Salt. Sugar. Well, vinegar and salt (less so sugar) can prevent spoilage. Ketchup is actually very acidic and salty. Heinz "suggests" refrigeration on their website to help prevent spoilage. But, no "thou shall" wording. There's not a mention of it on Hunt's website. Checking the web, many people state ketchup does not require refrigeration. Some state their ketchup bottle has no warning whatsoever. Here's what I can discern.

Ketchup does not spoil quickly. Weeks, maybe months should be fine on a shelf. But not forever. But nowhere is it written how long it will last. There is no mention anywhere of the flavor changing until it spoils. Many prefer it warm over cold.

Here is the fine print. If you use a lot of ketchup, then the shelf is probably fine. But, this assumes you keep it out of sunlight and at room temperature. General food safety rules apply. Don't touch the lip. Don't cross contaminate it with food or wiping the lip with a rag. Don't refill it. And be on the look out for spoilage or mold growth. But, if you use a bottle every 18 months, keep it in the fridge and check it for spoilage.

Another caveat. There are many lower sodium, no sodium, and organic varieties. These might not be as safe on the shelf.


Greg said...

I refrigerate my Ketchup. I think it tastes better cold especially as a contrasting temperature to hot fries. I have heard that it actully retains its flavor better when not refrigerated because the cold alters the tomato chemistry in some way. One reason not to trefrigerate tomatoes even f they do last longer. Better to just eat them when ripe but, admittedly, when mine are ripe and about to go too ripe/spoil, I tend to refrigerate them. Think I saw that in a Burt Wolf show on PBS.

Bill said...

I have two bottles(plastic) of Heinz Ketchup spoiled, the ketchup turned black, stored in a closed cupboard. Never opened, no sunlight.

I do like the Heinz Ketchup, but will refrigerate from now on.

Anonymous said...

Clearly ketchup can be left out at room temperature for a while, as many restaurants do just that.