How much harm can a past-it wholemeal tortilla wreak?
February 11, 2013 11:29 AM   Subscribe

We have cooked a fab Indian meal for friends coming this evening. However, to our dismay the 'Discovery' brand wholemeal tortillas which we were going to use for rotis, turn out to be one month past their sell by date. They taste ok. Can anyone get sick from eating an out of date wholemeal tortilla? (Ingredients: Wholemeal wheat flour, water, veg oil, glycerine, raising agents (diphosphates, sodium bicarbonate), dextrose, salt, acidity regulators (malic acid, citric acid), preservative (calcium propionate), mono-anddiglycerides of fatty acids)
posted by Marzipan to Food & Drink (28 answers total)
So.. if they smell okay and taste okay, they're probably okay. If there's no clear signs of mold, you're probably okay.

If you can though, run to the store and buy fresh tortillas.
posted by royalsong at 11:33 AM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Has the package been opened before this? how have they been stored?

Frankly, I'd just go buy some new ones. Having just suffered an epic hit of food poisoning due to my being overly confident that food was safe to eat, trust me that it just isn't worth the risk, however small it may be. And you really don't want to be the host that gives your guest the trots.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:35 AM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: The package hasn't been opened before, and they have been stored in a cold place (less than 5 degrees centigrade I reckon). No sign of mould.

Unfortunately too late to go out to the store...
posted by Marzipan at 11:38 AM on February 11, 2013

When it's just me I'm nearly always on the side of eat it. I'm a gambler; I live life on the edge.

However, I'm not on the side of serving it to other people. You just don't know the vagaries of someone else's immune system and digestive tract. New tortillas.
posted by 26.2 at 11:39 AM on February 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

Wheat-based foods that haven't grown mold yet are fair game in my house.
posted by xingcat at 11:41 AM on February 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Sell by does not mean "eat by". If there's no mold and it smells okay, I'd go for it.
posted by Flamingo at 11:42 AM on February 11, 2013 [13 favorites]

You've already tasted them and they're not too stale and they're not moldy? Go for it.
posted by asperity at 11:43 AM on February 11, 2013

I am very good at buying tortillas and not eating them, so I have some experience with past-due ones. Normally if they don't have mold on them I eat them, and have never had a problem. Sometimes they do taste a bit not right--a little sour.

However, like 26.2 says, eating them yourself and serving them to others are completely different. I wouldn't risk it. I just looked up a recipe and they look pretty simple. Would you have time to make new ones yourself?
posted by apricot at 11:43 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am not a nutritionist, but my understanding is that when wholemeal grains or vegetable oil 'go bad', 'bad' generally means 'rancid'. Rancid food isn't good for you (it's kind of the opposite of an antioxidant), but it won't give you food poisoning either. Most people don't perceive rancid taste/odor well. The worst-case rancidity scenario is that one or more of your guests will be disgusted and avoid the tortillas.
posted by feral_goldfish at 11:44 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Eh. The worst that can happen is that they are dry and mouldy. If you see no signs of mould they should be fine.
We've used old, dried out tortillas in the past to use for dipping. Old tortillas may not taste great but they won't poison you.

This is a FAQ from Mission Tortillas. They are a similar brand to Discovery:

What happens to tortillas after their shelf life has expired?
They may grow mold and become dry.

posted by vacapinta at 11:45 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Eating stale, moldy bread doesn't make most people ill. I would tell the guests that these are old, though, in case they are unusually sensitive to mold (or have been advised to avoid eating molds as far as possible by a doctor OH HOW I MISS YOU BLEU CHEESE).
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:54 AM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

The damage was already done when you planned on using tortillas with Indian food.

If you must use tortillas brush them with oil and pop them on the frying pan for 15 seconds. Next time get some parathas from the refrigerated section of an asian market (don't use grocery store naans - those things are criminally bad).

You can rehab dry tortillas with some time in the microwave wrapped in a slightly damp kitchen towel.
posted by srboisvert at 11:58 AM on February 11, 2013 [9 favorites]

It's my understanding that bread moulds taste gross but won't hurt you, so even if there are already small colonies that you can't see on your tortillas, well, to hell with it if you can't taste them. And I say this as a connoisseur of ancient bread products (home-made, even, so without the preservatives to help.) I've spit a thing or two out, but no questionable bread product has ever made me ill.

The only other problem might be if the wheat in the tortillas has gone rancid. Once again, won't hurt you, but will make them taste bitter. Take a bite and see how it is. If it tastes good, rock on!
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:00 PM on February 11, 2013

I eat Mission tortillas up to one month past their sell by date if there is no mold or they are not dried out. Never been open, stored in the fridge? Eat em and serve em.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:04 PM on February 11, 2013

No visible mold and tastes fine? I wouldn't worry about it.

They may be kind of stale, which usually affects texture rather than flavor or safety.
posted by amaire at 12:13 PM on February 11, 2013

Oh, FFS, people: non-moldy bread is very, very, very rarely inedible.

And sell-by dates are marketing bullshit to move more product off the shelves.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:19 PM on February 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

If you're having guests over for a fabulous homemade meal, do you really want them to remember the at (at best) stale tortillas or (at worst) rancid tortillas? I mean, you could eat it, but it certainly won't be an asset to your dinner party.

Run to the store, or, if you have flour on hand, make some roti flatbreads yourself.
posted by Kololo at 12:22 PM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

The calcium propionate in the tortillas does a good job at inhibiting mold, without being harmful to you, so they should be safe to eat. They would taste better if they were fresher, though. Ideally, flour tortillas should be eaten the same day they're made.
posted by Ery at 12:24 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Point the first: I've used tortillas that are much, MUCH older than that - hell, I've fed them to my CHILD - and as long as they're not dry and don't smell weird, you're pretty much good to go.

Point the second: it is so, so, SO easy to make your own flatbread that you have no reason to use tortillas if you are even 0.0001% unsure about using them. You don't even need exact proportions, for god's sake - just toss a cup or so of flour in a bowl, add a generous pinch of salt, mix some hot water with a glug of oil and incorporate the oil/water mixture into the flour/salt mixture until you get a cohesive dough. Rip it into pieces, pat it flat, cook it in a preheated dry or buttered skillet until blistered on each side. DEEEEELISH.
posted by julthumbscrew at 12:33 PM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Sprinkle them with a couple of drops of water. Literally two. Maybe three. Then brush them lightly with oil. Then heat them up. They'll taste fresher and be fine.
posted by bardophile at 12:40 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is it 1 month after the best before date or 1 month after the expiry date? If after the best before it will be fine to eat, if after expiry than it is not safe to eat. You can google best before vs expiry for info.

Making fresh Roti is very simple too all you need is flour, salt water & small amount of oil, most staples in any cupboard. Google a recipe, a flat cast iron pan is best to use and you can wrap them in a tea towel once cooked to keep them warm.
posted by Under the Sea at 2:00 PM on February 11, 2013

Indian curries go great with rice. Just saying. If it were me, I'd be cooking up a big pot of rice.
posted by shazzam! at 4:03 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I eat out-of-date tortillas all the time. If it's one month after, though, that's pushing it, and I'd probably just toss them. One week, sure, two weeks, maybe, but one month, that's too much for me.
posted by Slinga at 4:32 PM on February 11, 2013

Please don't serve your guests month long expired food!
posted by pazazygeek at 6:11 PM on February 11, 2013

Will anyone get sick? Probably not.

Will the tortillas be enjoyable? Again, probably not.

I might serve these to family, in a pinch, because they'd have no hesitation in going 'Ugh! Stale', and leaving them half-eaten. Please don't put guests in that position.
posted by Salamander at 6:26 PM on February 11, 2013

Easy peasy make your own flatbread.

Your guests will be quite impressed.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:33 PM on February 11, 2013

Best answer: Can anyone get sick from eating an out of date wholemeal tortilla?

Haha, I have a package of wheat tortillas that's been open about six months and no ill effects yet. Note that they are being stored in the fridge, there is exactly zero visible mold, they are starting to get a little stale, and I don't have a compromised immune system.

But some people are being quite conservative with a food that really doesn't merit it (I should mention that there's a world of difference between storebought Mission-style tortillas and homemade tortillas).

You would probably be better served by a) adding some oil and cooking them on a pan or b) using rice. In terms of food safety, though, you are likely to be just fine.
posted by librarylis at 8:39 PM on February 11, 2013

I've found Discovery tortillas to last a while even after the package is open. If they look OK, taste OK, and there is no visible mould, eat away.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:29 AM on February 12, 2013

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