How to Tell If Common Foods Have Gone Bad or have Signs of Food Spoilage
One of the human race’s biggest problems is an inability to remember where half of the food in our homes came from.
The situation results in a lot of awkward sniffing and skeptical glances as we try to determine whether it is safe to consume the food item in our hands.
While some people swear by the date printed on the package, they are not the guide you might expect. Sell-by dates are a service for retailers to help them display only the freshest products, with no value to the consumer. Use-by, best-by, best-if-used-by, and best-before dates represent only the manufacturer’s voluntary guarantee of peak freshness, not food safety. Throwing food out because these dates have elapsed is just wasteful.
If the date on the package is not useful, how do you determine whether you can safely eat something? Each food has a number of things to look for to determine food safety. Below are tips for determining whether nine of the most common foods are safe to eat.
While there are a great variety of meats suitable to eat, they all exhibit the same signs of going bad. Bad meat is categorized by a slimy feel and sour smell.
Meat also changes color as it ages, going from red (peak freshness) to brown (loss of quality) to gray (throw it out). Meat can be preserved for months in the freezer, but be wary of freezer burn. Freezer burns look like dull, white patches on the surface of the meat. One or two can be cut out and the rest safely consumed, but any more than that warrants a trip to the garbage can.
Raw ground meat and chicken should only be stored for about 2 days before cooking. While you can store an uncooked beef roast and steaks for up to 3 to 5 days. Cooked beef or chicken can be stored for up to 3 or 4 days.
Like meat, the world’s vast array of fish share common traits when they spoil. Bad fish are slimy to the touch and have a noticeably fishy aroma.
These are not the most helpful of guidelines, as fish are always slimy and always smell like fish. Bad fish exhibits these traits to a much greater degree, but that degree can be a difficult thing to determine for people who rarely eat fish. If you would prefer to avoid the mystery, remember that fresh fish should be used within 36 hours of purchase. If you don’t remember buying it, just throw it out.
Sour milk is most frequently associated with a sour odor that permeates the atmosphere as soon as you open the lid. Bad milk also takes on a lumpy texture and experiences discoloration, but the sour odor is almost always the first sign of trouble. You should store your milk in the interior of your refrigerator, as temperatures warmer than 41 degrees Fahrenheit can cause milk to expire very quickly. Items stored on the door experience frequent temperature fluctuations every time the fridge is opened, a great way to turn your milk sour.
Eggs can easily last a month past their sell date, so don’t use this date to determine egg freshness. An egg’s safety to eat can be determined by a quick examination of the egg white. An extremely fresh egg white will have a cloudy white complexion that becomes clearer as the egg ages. A clear egg white will not taste as fresh as one that is still white but remains safe to consume.
Bad eggs are categorized by a pinkish or iridescent egg white, frequently accompanied by that awful rotten eggs smell. Either the color or the smell is sufficient reason to toss the egg.
For a quick & easy way to tell if you should eat that egg, simply put the whole egg into a bowl of water. If it sinks it’s fine. If it floats, toss it out.
Read More on How to Buy The Best Eggs for Your Family.
Different juices have different colors and odors, but bad juice is universally categorized by a foul odor and discoloration. The odor is generally the first sign it is time to dump your juice.
Micro-organisms actually ferment juice when they get inside the container, making it smell like vinegar or alcohol. Bad juice will eventually get moldy, but this doesn’t happen until well after it should have been discarded.
Unlike juice, the mold present on bad bread is the first and only indicator that your bread belongs in the garbage. Bread gets harder and dryer as it ages, but neither quality represents a health risk if consumed. Bread mold comes in every imaginable color including white, which can be difficult to distinguish from the flour used in the bread. Bread mold can usually be smelled before it is seen, but sniffing your bread is a bad idea. You do not want to inhale toxic mold spores! If even one slice of bread is moldy, discard the entire loaf. It isn’t worth the risk of ingesting microscopic spores.
The “Best By,” or “Use By” date on the package or box of pasta is the manufacturer’s estimate of how long the pasta will be at its freshest and best quality. Store pasta in an airtight container if the package or box was opened and you should be able to eat the uncooked pasta well past this date and up to one year.
For cooked pasta, whether it was originally purchased fresh or dried, spoiled pasta is categorized by a slimy, dull appearance and discoloration when it goes bad. Mold will start to grow if you allow it to fester long enough, but it should be thrown out well before that happens. If your pasta is in some kind of sauce, remember that a prepared dish is bad as soon as one individual ingredient is bad. There is no way to save pasta drenched in rancid sauce.
Dry rice lasts indefinitely if stored properly, but can still be rendered unsafe to eat by rice weevils. Rice weevils are reddish-brown insects that love to contaminate any rice they can get into. If these critters are squirming around your rice, it belongs in the trash can. The fatty acids in brown rice emit a foul odor when oxidized, so it does not last as long as dry rice. Cooked rice loses its texture over time and will eventually grow mold, regardless of the type of rice it was prepared with.
The ever-versatile potato can go bad in a number of different ways. Potatoes are still alive when harvested and will grow white sprouts in humid environments. These sprouts can be cut off and the potato eaten but the process severely damages the potato’s quality. Direct light exposure can cause a potato to develop green spots that force you to chuck it, while potatoes exposed to moisture will grow mold almost immediately. Once prepared, mashed potatoes have gone bad when the liquid separates from the solid base.
Hopefully, these tips help you out the next time you are trying to determine if something is still safe to eat. If you want to avoid food spoiling, try honey. Honey is the only natural food that will never expire under any circumstances.
Also Read How to Prevent Wastage of Food.