When Good Food Goes Bad: 12 Rotten Food Signs

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When Good Food Goes Bad: 12 Rotten Food Signs
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No one wants to start their day with a case of food poisoning. Different foods go bad at different rates and in different ways, and though chemists are working on developing a "dipstick" test that will immediately detect disease-causing bacteria in foods, for now the safest bet is to stick to the adage, "When in doubt, throw it out." If you're on the fence about the freshness of a particular food, the last thing you want to try is a taste test, because a single bite of rancid food could land you in the hospital.

Fish
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Fish

Benjamin Franklin famously quipped, "Fish and visitors smell in three days." When fish goes bad, it generally develops a strong odor; for fish that is pungent when fresh, use your eyes as a back-up system. Look for discoloration or dull coloring. If the fish looks brown, yellow or grayish, even if it's only around the edges, it's time to ask the offending food to leave.

Eggs
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Eggs

There's a reason why unsavory characters are described as "bad eggs." They can hide behind their pristine shells, but a rotten egg used in any recipe can turn out to be a salmonella sleeper cell. Fortunately, all you need to test the freshness of an egg is a bowl of water and a few moments. Place the uncracked egg into the bowl of water and observe. Older eggs allow air to seep through their porous shell, and therefore will either float, or stand on end at the bottom of the bowl. A fresh egg, with no air to corrupt it, will stay on it's side at the bottom of the bowl.

Steak
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Steak

The lure of a good steak is tempting enough for some people to roll the dice on a cut of meat that they may not be entirely sure of, but the flames of your grill are not a cure-all, and improperly stored meat is swarming with dangerous microorganisms such as E. coli and salmonella. Take a look at the color. Gray may be the new shade for fall, but it's definitely not a healthy look for a steak. Also, give it a whiff, as rancid steak has an odor that lives up to the name. If you're still unsure (and determined), let your fingers do the walking, as spoiled steak will have a slimy texture that should make up your mind.

Pork
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Pork

Pork products are said to be leaner than ever, and pork holds the title of the number-one selling meat choice in the world. That being said, this little piggy can go bad, and when it does, it does so with a vengeance. Apply the same scent, sight and touch test that you would to meat if the freshness of your pork is in question. It should smell faintly bloody, not moldy, should be pink or dark red, and not discolored, and it should not have a slimy coating.

Lunch Meat
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Lunch Meat

Prepackaged, or freshly sliced at the deli, all lunch meats are susceptible to spoilage. Prepackaged (and unopened) lunch meat should stay fresh for about two weeks, while deli-cut meats have a much shorter shelf life due their exposure to outside air. Use your senses (including common sense) -- spoiled lunch meat will have suspicious coloring, a slimy feel and a funny smell that your stomach won't find that humorous.

Chicken
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Chicken

Rancid chicken is a ticking time bomb in your kitchen. Never keep raw chicken in your refrigerator for longer than 48 hours, and eat frozen chicken within six months of freezing. Bad chicken gives off a sour odor or a scent like ammonia. Discoloration or a slimy texture are also good indicators that it's a good time to order in.

Potatoes
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Potatoes

"Rotten Potato" may be a great name for an Irish garage band, but it's hardly something you want on your dinner plate. This versatile veggie lasts longest when stored in a cool, dark place, but should be checked on intermittently. When one potato goes bad, it will lead the rest down the same road to ruin. Squeeze a potato; if it's firm, it's fine to eat, but if it gives in and is soft and mushy, throw it away. Look for sprouts, and give it a sniff, as a spoiled potato's smell is unmistakably musty.

Lettuce
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Lettuce

This friend of sandwiches and salads alike has about a one-week shelf life in your fridge. Look out for wilting and browning -- fresh lettuce should be green or reddish purple, depending on the type. Also watch out for swelling or moisture in a bag that contains lettuce.

Peanut Butter
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Peanut Butter

Peanut butter's high in fat content ensures it won't get moldy, but like other oils it will become rancid over time. Check the expiration date and give it a good sniff; if the smell is "off," then throw it out in a jiff.

Yogurt
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Yogurt

Yogurt is a dairy product produced by the bacterial fermentation of milk, so essentially it's a food that wants to go bad. Telltale signs of spoilage are an odd odor, mold spores or a lumpy texture that has nothing to do with the mixed-in fruit.

Cream Cheese
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Cream Cheese

Unlike aged cheeses made with mold like Gorgonzola and Roquefort, cream cheese is best consumed fresh. Discard it if it turns green or grows mold, and check your expiration date; once opened, cream cheese should be used within ten days.

Strawberries
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Strawberries

This delicious fruit has a reputation for spoiling quickly. Watch for any change in color, and look out for fuzzy, white mold or brown spots. Ripe strawberries should be firm to the touch, and have a solid red color.

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