I totally agree with you, Bearcarver. But I am also like a four year old whose favorite questions is WHY?!? Not because I'm going to disparage it or try to push my limits of safety, but because I think Science is Cool and understanding how stuff works is key to ensuring success down the road. (and I am a total nerd...)
So: bacteria 101
It's all about optimal environment. Ther are only a few ways to STOP bacteria from growing:
Raise the temperature
Drop the pH
Remove the moisture
Do *any* of those three and you halt bacterial growth. (This is why vinegar never goes bad and why dried onions last forever.) You would not want to hold meat at low temperatures for THE EXACT same reason you wouldn't eat potato salad that's been out on the counter all day. If you hold any food at optimal temps (with moisture present and without an acidic environment) the pathogenic bacteria will swiftly outnumber the beneficial bacteria and make you VERY sick. As was mentioned before, once those toxins are present, there is no way to remove them.
Think of this: If I handed you a grey slimy piece of rotted meat, no amount of cooking is going to make it safe. :P
At the middling temps that most of us prefer to smoke at, bacteria have a field day, multiplying faster than ever before. It's dark, warm, wet & meaty. This is why meat on a countertop rots faster than meat in your fridge, or meat in your freezer. At every five degrees above freezing, some bacteria multiply twice as fast as they did before.
So for example, if Bacteria A doubles every 36 hours at 32 degrees, then it doubles every 16 hours at 37 degrees. it doubles every 8 hours at 42 degrees. Every 4 hours at 47 degrees. Every 2 hours at 52 degrees. Every hour at 57 degrees. Every 30 minutes at 62 degrees. Every 15 minutes at 67 degrees. Every 7.5 minutes at 73 degrees. Every 3.75 minutes at 78 degrees. Every 112 seconds at 83 degrees. Every minute at 88. Every 30 seconds at 93... You see where this is going? If you hold meat above 40 degrees and under 140, you are creating the perfect environment for pathogenic bacterial growth.. aka ROTTING.
This is ALSO why operating rooms are so cold, why fermented beer was safer than drinking water in the Middle Ages, why yogurt lasts longer than milk, why pickles never seem to go bad as fast as raw cucumbers, why we brush sliced apples with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown, why high pressure canning works so darn well, why you should be SO DILIGENT about keeping your meat prep area CLEAN and ICY... So much comes back to this exact answer.
It is all about controlling the BAD bacteria and encouraging the GOOD bacteria.
Wanna hear some more geek? Ask away!! :)
Originally Posted by Bearcarver
I look at it this way, in this particular instance:
A lot of much more knowledgable people than I study this stuff. They come up with safety guidelines. I go by their guide, because they know more about it than I do. I don't have the time, the resources, or the inclination to be able to dispute their findings.
I warn others who don't know about those guidelines. They can then follow those rules or not follow them. If they tell others those rules are stupid, I dispute that, because I don't want people who know less than those who made the rules to confuse people into getting sick or dying.
Simple as that,