Food waste is a significant problem in our society, with millions of tons of food ending up in landfills every year. Not only is this bad for the environment, but it’s also a waste of resources and money.

With a global food crisis always looming on the horizon and food access worldwide in a precarious state, we must be prepared. To avoid contributing to food waste and prepare for an emergency, it’s essential to know when food is no longer safe to eat.

In this article, we will explore some common signs that food has spoiled and how to tell it’s time to throw it away.

Common Signs Of Spoilage

There are many ways to tell a product is spoiled. However, it differs depending on the type of product in question.

Meat or fish, for example, will have different indicators than bread and grains. Knowing how to distinguish that a product has expired and is no longer consumable is vital to personal safety and helps you save money.

Visual Signs Of Spoilage

One of the most apparent signs that food has gone bad is a change in its appearance. Mold is one of the most common visual indicators of spoilage, especially in bread, fruits, and vegetables.

Related: Should You Throw It Out? These Moldy Foods Are Still Edible

Mold can spread quickly and, if left unchecked, can contaminate other foods in your pantry or refrigerator. If you see mold on your food, it’s best to discard it immediately and sanitize the area where the mold is present to prevent it from spreading.

Other visual signs of spoilage include discoloration in meat, fish, or dairy products, sliminess in lettuce or other leafy greens, and a pungent odor. For example, raw meat that has turned a shade of brown or green is no longer safe to eat and should be discarded immediately.

Similarly, meat that emits a foul smell is not safe to consume. If the odor of a food item is off or has changed, this is a sign that it is spoiled and should be discarded, as it can be dangerous to eat.

Texture Changes

Food that has gone bad often has a different texture than when it was fresh. For example, when raw meat or fish has gone bad, it may feel slimy, while bread or crackers may feel sticky or dry.

Similarly, canned goods with bulges or leaks indicate that the food inside may be unsafe for consumption.

When it comes to canned goods, bulges or leaks suggest that the can is compromised, and the food inside could be contaminated with bacteria.

Changes In Smell

As pointed out previously, a noticeable change in odor is a sign that food has gone bad, especially for perishable items like meat and dairy products.

Raw meat that has a rancid or sour odor, milk that has a sour or rotten smell, and fish that has a strong, fishy scent are all signs that the product is no longer safe to eat.

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Food odor can be a reliable indicator of spoilage, as bacteria that cause food to spoil often release foul-smelling gases as they grow.

Being aware of spoilage signs can help reduce food waste and ensure that you and your family are eating safe and healthy food.

If in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and discard the product in question. However, there are a few ways to ensure your food lasts longer and is safely stored.

How To Make Food Last Longer

In addition to knowing when food is expired and unsafe to consume, you probably want to extend the shelf life of the foods in your home.

Extending the shelf life of food is important for reducing waste and saving money. Here are some effective ways to do so:

Proper Storage

Store food in airtight containers or resealable bags to prevent exposure to air and moisture, which can cause spoilage.

Keep perishable items like fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator to ensure they are stored at a temperature below 40°F.

On the other hand, flour or rice should be placed in the freezer for 48 hours and then sealed in an airtight container to kill any potential pests.

Use Vacuum Sealing

Vacuum sealing removes the air from food packaging, slowing the spoilage rate. This is particularly effective for perishable items such as meats and dairy products.

Freeze Food

Freezing is a great way to extend the shelf life of food, especially for items that are about to expire or that you won’t use immediately. Make sure to label and date items before freezing and defrost appropriately before cooking.

Relying on electricity to keep your food frozen can have its downsides, especially during power outages. If you find yourself in this situation, here is what you should do with all the frozen food during a blackout.

Pickle And Preserve

Pickling is a traditional method of preserving food, which can extend the shelf life of many items, including vegetables, fruits, and meats.

Canning is another preservation method that can help extend the shelf life of food by sealing it in jars and heating it to destroy bacteria and enzymes.

Rotate Stock

Frequently rotating the food you have stored in your home or your emergency storage is vital to safety.

Regularly check the dates on cans or other products and rotate your pantry to shift older products to the front, where they will be consumed sooner.

Use Proper Food Handling Techniques

Proper food handling techniques, such as washing your hands and avoiding cross-contamination, can help reduce the risk of foodborne illness and extend the shelf life of food.

Related: 7 Deadly Canning Mistakes Even Smart People Make

With rising food costs and global access concerns, extending the shelf life of food is essential for reducing waste and saving money. By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your food lasts longer and stays fresh.

Freshness Checklist

When the validity of a product is in question, look for:

  • Visual signs: spoilage often results in noticeable changes to the appearance of the food, such as mold, discoloration, sliminess, or an off odor.
  • Texture changes: food that has gone bad often has a different texture and may feel slimy, sticky, or dry.
  • Change in smell: A noticeable change in odor is a sign that the food may have gone bad, especially for perishable items like meat and dairy products.
  • Expired date: Food items will often have an expiration date which can give an idea of the product’s shelf life.

Regarding food safety, it is better to be safe than sorry. If you question whether a food is good or bad, assume it is spoiled and avoid consuming it to keep yourself and your family safe.

This list is not comprehensive, and there are many other ways to tell if food is spoiled and to make it last longer. I would love to hear how you extend the shelf life of food or how you can tell a product is not safe to consume. Share your thoughts and advice in the comments.

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