How long it’s been since you tossed a bottle of maple syrup, ketchup or some frozen foods right into the bin after the expiry date without even caring to look into them? Seriously, the ‘best before’ dates and ‘use by’ dates are not a benchmark to gauge your food but a rough estimate of how long the food can withstand up to. There’s even confusion existing over these dates which accounts for aplenty of food being discarded while they can still be used. So, if expiration dates are not going to be extremely helpful in analyzing food spoilage how are we going to know which foods to keep or throw away?
A stale smell, rotten items and presence of molds calls for no second opinion and the food needs to be immediately discarded. But there are various other subtle signs that the food has expired and you remain ignorant of it sometimes. Warning-such foods must never be used as it could result in serious consequences. The checkpoints here might help you pick out the expired food (without an expiration date) and consume healthy ones:
Potatoes: These are one of the longest-staying foods but there are some of us who are capable of even throwing these poor things into the bin as they have rotten. A greenish color appearing on the potatoes means that the vegetable is beginning to rot. It’s safer to throw them out but some do suggest chopping off the green part and consuming the rest. As days pass the potatoes might wrinkle, become less-firm and start growing sprouts at the eyes. Still they are usable when the sprouts are cut but when they rot and stink this is a point of no return.
Appearance of sprouts: Occasionally we see onions growing a small green sprout and funnily we’ve even heard our grandparents asking us to use it to grow onions in a pot. The general thumb rule is to get rid of vegetables (such as peppers, onions and potatoes) once they start sprouting.
Wrinkles & More: Any fruit or vegetable with a thin skin that develops wrinkles or the skin starts to peel off is a sign that the produce is no longer edible. Produce have a beautiful reproduction cycle by means of decomposition wherein the seeds go back to the soil and produce new produce. Appearance of moisture is the first sign of mold growth.
Texture change: Crisp vegetables such as zucchini, carrots and celery will start becoming rubbery losing their original crispness when they start becoming stale.
Smells Fishy: Fish can only smell like a fish but a distinct ‘fishy’ smell indicates that the seafood has gone bad. One can always understand from the smell of the fish whether its fresh out of water or a little outdated. Right out of the sea fresh fish has a sweet, ocean smell. If you are purchasing an entire fish with its eyes intact see to that the eyes are clear and not glassy. Sometimes, the fish develops a slimy texture indicating that it’s gone stale.
Slimy meat: Not only fish but meat also can become slimy/sticky indicating bacterial growth on them. Any individual who consumes it is at a high risk of falling sick. Food poisoning is also possible and for more details on it please visit the website www.firsteatright.com.
A dent or a bend: Canned goods have a long shelf life but take care to ensure that they are not bent, dented, corroded or swollen. That’s how you check on how good the inside food is from outside. The dent could have the smallest of the hole which serves as an environment for bacteria to thrive. A bloated or swollen can that looks like having moisture or if there are traces of air getting off the can when opened it is a sure sign of expiry. This is especially true for milk.
Ice crystals: Frozen foods are kept under controlled chillness and the appearance of ice crystals or frost is never taken as a sign of decay. On the contrary, ice crystals on the food is a clear sign that the food is no longer good to consume. Presence of frozen foods with ice crystals is a sign that the food came up the freezing point and then was re-frozen.
Missing fizz: For the fluffy rice cakes or pancakes you never fail to use the baking soda-a must-have ingredient in most pantries. Though quite difficult to find out whether it has gone stale by looking at it there is a simple way to test it. Add a teaspoon of baking soda to a bowl and add some white vinegar to it. If it fizzes rapidly you can use it without doubt but if there is no fizz its time to discard it off.
Scent changes: How is your sense of smell? It can determine your effectiveness in finding out if a food is good or bad. Your nose is a great tool to keep you from eating rotten or expired foods. Some foods might look fine but the presence of a strange smell or the absence of the necessary smell guides you. For example, spices and herbs should smell aromatic, fish should smell of ocean water and tomatoes should not smell rotten.
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.