Most of us at some point have opened the fridge, only to struggle to remember how long that milk has been sitting there or when you bought those eggs. No one likes to waste food, but to prevent getting sick, we have to pay attention to the signs we should throw our food away. Sometimes it's hard to decipher whether or not a food has gone bad, so it's good to know when we can rest easy or when it's time to toss that old loaf of bread.
"There are so many different ways manufacturers label their dates on products —i.e.: sell by date, use by date, best by — it’s confusing!" says Rebecca Clyde MS, RDN, CD over email. "How do you look at this and not translate it into meaning that it expires by this date? In the meantime, how do you know whether your food is ok to eat or not?"
Luckily, even if all those dates confuse you, you can use your senses to make a judgment call on when it's time to let go if that food. Here are seven signs that it's time to throw your food away — better safe than sorry!
1. If There's Mold
"If the item has mold, toss it," says certified holistic nutrition educator Niki Wells over email. "There is one exception to this rule, of course: cheese. If your hard cheese gets a spot of mold, it's still considered safe to consume. Just cut off 1 inch around the molded area. If a soft cheese develops mold, it should be thrown away."
2. If It Has Been Unrefrigerated For Too Long
"Prepared foods that have been left out of refrigeration for two hours or more should be thrown away," says Wells. Same goes for eggs, raw meats, fish, shell fish, and dairy products.
3. If It Smells Weird
"Use your senses," says Clyde. "Food will smell bad before enough bacteria could grow to make you sick."
4. If Your Can Has A Dent
"Your pantry staples are good for years," says Wells. "If the item has an expiration date, then pitch by this date. If a can has a dent, it MUST be pitched. Consuming canned food that has been dented puts you at risk for botulism."
5. If Your Food In The Freezer Has Crystals
"If foods in the freezer have ice crystals, this means they have been frozen and defrosted several times and could potentially have harbored the growth of dangerous microorganisms," says nutrition expert Toby Amidor, MS, RD over email.
6. If Your Meat Has Discoloration
If it doesn't look right, get rid of it. Toss your meats if you find brown, black, purple, or other types of discoloration, says Amidor.
7. If Anything Appears Slimy
It's OK if your fruits and vegetables don't look pretty anymore, but if they feel slimy, throw them away, says Wells.
When it doubt, toss it, but it's good to know the tell-tale signs that your food has gone bad.
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