Combining diced chicken with salad vegetables and salad dressing makes a tasty salad or filling for a sandwich. Yet, healthy chicken salad can turn into a food disaster if it becomes spoiled. Like most perishable foods, chicken salad may become unfit for consumption if you do not observe the correct procedures to cook and store it. You should immediately discard spoiled chicken salad because it can host a variety of microorganisms, such as bacteria, molds and yeasts, that may give you or your guests food poisoning.
Smell the chicken salad. If it gives off a strong, unpleasant odor, the salad has gone bad. The smell is caused by the chicken absorbing off-flavors of the other salad ingredients such as lettuce, onions, tomatoes or apples.
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Observe the color of the chicken salad. If the chicken and other salad vegetables take on a brownish-gray color, the salad is spoiled. Naturally occurring enzymes in the salad ingredients cause the protein and carbohydrates to degrade and spoil.
Observe the texture of the chicken pieces. If a sticky layer of slime has formed on the surface, the chicken salad is contaminated by mold and bacterial growth. Chicken salads have a high moisture content that creates a favorable environment in which mold and bacteria thrive.
Discard chicken salad if you have kept it in the refrigerator for more than three days or at a temperature higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Storing chicken salad longer than three days or above 40 degrees Fahrenheit gives rise to bacteria that cause food poisoning.
Before using chicken to prepare salad, ensure that you cook it to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the cooked chicken and prevent spoilage due to bacterial contamination.