Can I still eat this?
Have you ever gone into the refrigerator with your heart set on eating something only to raise an eyebrow and question yourself on whether you can still eat it or throw it out?
Spoiled food can be a real downer, especially when you’re hungry and it feels like you wasted your money. Let’s talk about how to spot it and keep your food fresh and safe!
If your food gives off a pungent or unpleasant odor, that’s an obvious red flag. Your nose knows… most times. However there may be times when the quick whiff test doesn’t cut it because there may be microorganisms (e.g bacteria and viruses) present but are not yet plentiful enough to alter the smell.
If the food texture is slimy, mushy, or otherwise off, it is an indication that the food has spoiled. Keep in mind the following:
- If you’re checking meat, it should feel firm and springy. If it’s slimy or sticky, it’s time to say goodbye.
- For fruits and vegetables, they should have a crisp and crunchy texture. If they’re mushy or have soft spots, they’re past their prime.
- Dairy products like yogurt or cheese should be smooth and creamy. If they become grainy or develop an odd texture, it’s best to discard them.
Uh-oh, if you spot any fuzzy or discolored patches of mold, it’s time to say goodbye to that food. Cutting out the moldy parts does not make them safe to it. Mold is bacteria and tends to burrow deep especially in soft food like bread.
Keep an eye out for any significant color changes. If your food looks off or has unusual discoloration, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Here are some examples to help spot spoilage:
- For fruits and vegetables, if they have dark or moldy spots, or if they’ve changed color significantly from their usual vibrant hues, it’s a sign they’re no longer fresh.
- When it comes to meat, if it has turned gray or brown instead of its usual pink or red color, it’s a clear indication that it’s gone bad.
- Dairy products like milk or yogurt should have a consistent color. If you notice any curdling, clumps, or a change in color, it’s best to discard them
Trust your taste buds! If the food tastes strange or off, sour or bitter, it’s a clear signal that it’s time to toss it.
Besides focusing on how best to identify food that has gone bad, here’s tips to prevent food spoilage and keep your meals fresh:
- Storage savvy: Store perishable foods, like meat and dairy, in the refrigerator at the right temperature to slow down spoilage. Store in airtight containers. I wrap up my meat in plastic wrap before placing it in a ziplock with the date of purchase written on it. This way, I’m reminded of the date I bought it so I can use it sooner vs later.
- First in, first out: Remember to use the “first in, first out” rule. Consume older items before newer ones to avoid any food going bad. It can help to arrange food stuff or pantry items by placing products that are older in the front and newer produce in the back.
- Expiration dates matter: Keep an eye on those expiration dates. It marks the date when the food will be spoiled from the date it was produced. It is also important to consider that storage temperature, light, and oxygen play a role in food storage and can accelerate food spoilage, even prior to the expiration date listed.
- Clean is key: Maintain good kitchen hygiene to prevent cross-contamination and the growth of bacteria. Old food or stagnant liquids breed bacteria and viruses in your kitchen storage spaces and refrigerator that can spread to newly bought and fresh foods.