How to Tell If Your Deli Meat Has Gone Bad

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To avoid illness, make sure your meat is safe before consumption.
To avoid illness, make sure your meat is safe before consumption. (Image: Salami image by Angelika Bentin from Fotolia.com)

The CDC estimates that foodborne diseases are the cause of 76 million illnesses each year in the United States. The consumption of spoiled deli meat can increase your chances of contracting one of these diseases. While there are ways to check whether deli meat is spoiled, note that foods that appear normal in appearance may still contain dangerous bacteria. The best precaution is to refrain from eating foods that have been improperly stored.

Put on plastic or rubber gloves. Unwrap the meat and visually inspect it. Look for signs of discoloration, including darker spots and grey, brown, black or green areas. Discoloration indicates that the meat is dehydrated, freezer burned or that it has mold. Also look for dry or creamy spots. Dryness indicates dehydration or freezer burn and creaminess is a sign of mold.

Smell the meat to determine if there is a foul odor. This includes sulfur or ammonia smells, as well as, rotting or sour odors. These indicate the presence of bacteria in the meat. If the meat smells like other flavors in your refrigerator, such as onions, this indicates it has absorbed these flavors and may not taste the way it should.

Touch the meat. Feel for signs of slime, stickiness, hardening, fur or whiskers. The presence of any of these textures indicates mold and bacteria, as well as, yeast spoilage or dehydration.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wrap your deli meat before refrigeration to prevent dehydration, contamination and odor absorption.
  • Refrigerate deli meat at temperatures below 35 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Consume deli meat within four days of purchase.

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