Can I still use this ground beef?
May 17, 2011 3:06 PM   Subscribe

Very fast answer needed: can I eat this ground beef whose vacuum-seal package is puffed up?

Bought from Trader Joe's on the 13th, brought home and put right in the bottom shelf of the fridge. Sell by date is the 21st. I opened it up and, to me, smells okay. Can I cook and eat it? It's going into chili macaroni, so it'll be thoroughly cooked, not left medium-rare or anything.
posted by The Michael The to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I would opt for a vegetarian meal.
posted by tomswift at 3:09 PM on May 17, 2011


I would not.
posted by mollymayhem at 3:12 PM on May 17, 2011


Response by poster: I would not.

Eat it or opt for a veg meal?
posted by The Michael The at 3:14 PM on May 17, 2011


Best answer: Very fast answer needed: can I eat this ground beef whose vacuum-seal package is puffed up?

Very probably no. When bacteria eat and divide, they poop, among other things, carbon dioxide, which is what is causing your vacuum-sealed bag to puff up. The other things bacteria can poop can include nerve toxins like botulin.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:14 PM on May 17, 2011


Best answer: a puffed up package is a very bad sign. please throw it out carefully, and wash anything it came into contact with
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:15 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Was it puffy when you bought it?

Since it was bought on the 13th and it's the 17th now I would say no, because ground beef doesn't tend to last that long in the fridge. But, sometimes they inject those packages with inert gas that is supposed to preserve shelf life, and maybe that is why the package is puffy.

If it was not puffy to start, then no.

I was told this by a meat guy at a grocery store when I was confused that all of the packages were puffy.
posted by cabingirl at 3:15 PM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Best answer: I have to agree with the other answers here. You should not eat it.
posted by Bachsir at 3:15 PM on May 17, 2011


Best answer: Do not eat.
posted by something something at 3:19 PM on May 17, 2011


Best answer: did you transport it up a mountain in the last 4 days? If so, I wouldn't worry about it. If not, don't eat it.
posted by juliapangolin at 3:20 PM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Best answer: I'm one of the few people here who usually say, "hell, yes" to any should-I-eat-this questions.

But this time, I wouldn't eat it.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 3:24 PM on May 17, 2011


Best answer: Jesus no.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:27 PM on May 17, 2011


Best answer: NO. NO. NO.

I used to eat pretty much anything: sour/chunky milk, nasty old beans left on the counter for days that tasted like feet. Then I had a severe bout of food poisoning that I attributed to a hangover but actually resulted from improperly stored meat. It was the single worst experience I have ever had in my life. I ended up puking every 10-15 minutes for 20 hours and had to be hospitalized for severe dehydration as well as sodium/potassium imbalance. It was a horrendous and expensive experience that I consciously put my body through. Don't risk it.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:28 PM on May 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Best answer: Nope. Ground beef is just not something you wanna mess with. Ever. It's already ground up with all kinds of crap, and now it's puffing out the package? No.
posted by clone boulevard at 3:33 PM on May 17, 2011


How puffed are we talking? Is it, like, the kind of Trader Joe's container with the solid white plastic on the bottom with the stretched-tight trasparent top? And the top is just a little swole? If the latter: I've been in your shoes, and have eaten the meat, and been fine. If I were you, I would happily eat it, but I would not serve it to anyone else, juuuust in case.
posted by Greg Nog at 3:35 PM on May 17, 2011


Best answer: No. Nay. Nyet. Toss it in the outside garbage and sanitize anything it has touched.
posted by deborah at 3:36 PM on May 17, 2011


Best answer: Clarification: I would not eat it.
posted by mollymayhem at 3:40 PM on May 17, 2011


I live in Denver, where every package like the one you're describing is puffy. I agree with many of the above, the answer depends on whether it was puffy to begin with. If so, eat.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:40 PM on May 17, 2011


Response by poster: It was going into the pan when I posted the question, so we just tossed the whole meal once the answers here hit a critical mass. The kitchen is cleaned and sanitized. Thanks for the food sanity check, everyone.
posted by The Michael The at 3:52 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had the same problem. Bought the meat from Trader Joe's, didn't notice if it was puffy or not then. Brought it home, husband would NOT let me use it even though it smelled fine and the date was fine so I threw it away. Next time I went to Trader Joe's ALL the same meat was puffy on the shelf. I didn't buy it though because I know they aren't good at removing moldy fruit so how can I trust the meat? I don't know how to resolve this except write to/call Trader Joe's and ask.
posted by girlhacker at 3:55 PM on May 17, 2011


I've noticed that a lot (if not all?) of the TJ's packaged meat (not the truly vacuum sealed, but the ones that come in the plastic tray like Greg Nog describes) is puffy. I've eaten it plenty of times with no problem. I always thought the puffiness was from the nitrogen they pump in to keep everything fresh. They do the same thing with bags of salad greens (which is why they last for days in your fridge, then die within seconds of opening the package).

But if your meat was in one of the shrink-fit packs and puffy or overly puffy, then I'd be concerned.

p.s. Sorry to hear about your chili. :(
posted by phunniemee at 4:06 PM on May 17, 2011


Even if you cook it thoroughly enough to kill EVERYTHING, there are all kinds of fascinating toxins produced by the kind of stuff that grows off of protein (ground beef) many of whom are already found in beef sold in the US. Even if you do somehow get lucky and don't get sick off of whatever grew, it almost certainly produced H2S, which you would smell, I would not open it inside.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:07 PM on May 17, 2011


Ground beef isn't really something to mess around with. Even the Michigan Beef Industry Commission says 1-2 days in the fridge. I'd generally freeze it or use it much more quickly. If it's packed in a modified atmosphere and remains unopened, that might help it last a bit longer, but why chance it?
posted by zachlipton at 4:14 PM on May 17, 2011


Those kind of containers where there is a nice extrusion of meat "under glass" do tend to be sealed under some amount of pressure. As opposed to the old school deli meat in the foam tray wrapped in plastic wrap. I still wouldn't eat it if I got it in my head that it was no good though.

On the other hand, I can picture seeing those packages under a bit of a vacuum too, so I don't know what the answer is.

Either way, the gas in there usually isn't air, so it is effectively an anaerobic environment. (I forget which gas they use, but it is done that was so the meat stays a nice color.


Botulism toxins are destroyed by heat, proper cooking.

I wouldn't risk it. The LD50 is measured in NANOgrams.

Proper cooking is meant to ameliorate bugs and toxins you don't know about or can't detect. If there is something obviously (or seemingly) wrong, cooking won't just fix it. Plus, there could be other toxins in there too.
posted by gjc at 4:24 PM on May 17, 2011


I'm glad that you took the safe route, but I will say that I don't think I've ever bought ground meat (turkey, in my case, but how different can it be?) that *wasn't* puffy. I thought that was how they packaged it, on purpose.

A quick call to your Trader Joe's could probably set aside some of the mystery.
posted by charmcityblues at 4:43 PM on May 17, 2011


Response by poster: I'm glad that you took the safe route, but I will say that I don't think I've ever bought ground meat (turkey, in my case, but how different can it be?) that *wasn't* puffy. I thought that was how they packaged it, on purpose.

Well, the package was definitely much puffier relative to how it began. As in, it puffed up significantly over the course of the four days it was in the fridge.
posted by The Michael The at 5:20 PM on May 17, 2011


Call Trader Joe's. Take it back for a refund, maybe. But definitely seal it up in a ziplock bag just in case; botulin toxins can be dangerous.

The current status of food safety in the US is not comforting. I'm a lot more cautious about meat than my Mom was, for good reason.
posted by theora55 at 6:39 PM on May 17, 2011


Dont toss it. Get your money back.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:34 PM on May 17, 2011


Trader Joe's is awesome about giving refunds/exchanges. Just take the receipt in, you don't need to bring the package as proof. (If you've pitched it already, you probably don't even need the receipt. Just explain what happened, and they should be cool with it.) Every time I've ever had a problem (even with a gallon of milk that tasted funny), they've made good on it, no questions asked.
posted by phunniemee at 8:39 PM on May 17, 2011


Botulism toxins are destroyed by heat, proper cooking.

floam, this university site agrees that the toxin can be destroyed by prolonged boiling, but that heat-resistant spores can stay behind. I wouldn't go near any food in a puffed-out container.
posted by maudlin at 2:21 PM on May 29, 2011


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