weird, strong odor from Florida Crystals sugar
July 9, 2016 9:54 AM   Subscribe

I just opened a package of Florida Crystals Natural Sugar, and the odor is quite strong. It's difficult to describe, but it's kind of acrid/acidic. Can I Eat It?

Can you offer any information about what kinds of odors are normal and what are not? I've bought Florida Crystals sugar before, but never noticed an odor.

The color is what I'd expect: a light off-white color.

It doesn't smell like brown sugar to me.

After smelling the sugar in the package, my fiancé is disinclined to eat things baked with it. I bought another package at the same time (months ago) and have used some of that with reasonable results, and I think it had a similar odor, but I'm not 100% certain of that.

We're going to make ice cream with this, so it won't be cooked.

I already e-mailed customer service, but they might take a long time to respond.
posted by amtho to Food & Drink (13 answers total)
Sugar absorbs odors and flavors really easily, which is one reason it's so easy to make vanilla sugar. So it could have been stored next to something weird before you bought it. I would really just return it to the store or call the sugar company for a replacement, if possible.

If it's a "feet" smell, it might be a fungus. Sometimes sugar gets contaminated that way. You can try to leave it out in the sun for a day and transfer it to a new container, but if it still has a bad smell, I would toss it. (Not because it's unsafe, but because it would transfer the smell to food.)
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:03 AM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can I Eat It?

But why would you want to? Would replacing it mean hiking over canyons in a blizzard? Is it a 100 pound bag? Sentimental value? No one will accuse you of wasting food if you don't use this sugar. You already have a thumbs down from your fiance. Toss or return.
posted by sageleaf at 10:19 AM on July 9, 2016 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: Sugar is expensive to produce; I really really hate wasting things, and I don't want to give more than the minimum to the sugar industrial complex!

I doubt the odor is absorbed after the sugar was packaged, since it comes in a plastic container ( I like re-using the plastic containers for other things). I wondered if the bottle itself was part of the odor, but it isn't like the odors I usually associate with plastic.

Also, I'm wondering if other batches of this same brand of sugar will have the same smell. The sugar is organic -- there aren't many organic sugar brands available.

I'm wondering too if the odor is a natural part of sugar that is usually removed by bleaching or some other chemical process, and which other people _don't_ find objectionable.

Also, I wonder if the odor will naturally decrease when the sugar is used, incorporated, or aired out.

I have tried "sugar in the raw" and other beige varieties before, and haven't noticed this odor. However, I'm also wondering if it has been present and I just didn't notice, or if it was present in a less-intense form.
posted by amtho at 10:41 AM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sounds like it got damp and could be fermenting... I'd get some more. Otherwise you might also be wasting, at the very least, all the other ingredients and time gone into making ice cream...
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:00 AM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Probably not going to kill you, but resulting ice cream will likely taste like it. Have you tried tasting some of the sugar directly to see if the smells carries over to the taste?
posted by valeries at 11:13 AM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sugar should smell like sugar. If the sugar smells off then the ice cream will smell off and you'll wind up tossing not just the sugar but the ice cream which is more wasteful than dumping just the sugar.
posted by plastic_animals at 11:34 AM on July 9, 2016 [6 favorites]

I don't like waste either, but possibly getting food poisoning is not worth a bag of sugar.
posted by gt2 at 11:56 AM on July 9, 2016

Is there a consumer questions phone number on the package? I would call and describe it. I did that with a new bag of walnuts that smelled bad and was told it was rancid. They sent me $20 in walnut coupons.
posted by cecic at 12:01 PM on July 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

Sugar should not have a "strong" smell. I think it'd be a bigger waste to cook with it than to toss it.

Calling any number listed on the packaging is a good idea. No customer relations person is going to advise you to eat something with a strong weird smell and risk legal liability. You might get a refund, though.
posted by kapers at 12:11 PM on July 9, 2016

Sugar is relatively cheap, it's not worth risking who-know-what for this: put me down as Team Toss It.

Besides absorbing other stuff's odors or fermenting, another possibility is bugs, especially roaches. Toss!
posted by easily confused at 12:21 PM on July 9, 2016

Best answer: I've used Florida Crystals sugar and it's never had an off smell. Return it to the store and find a jar with a different batch code.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:57 PM on July 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Do not eat it. Most likely as mentioned above it has gotten enough moisture for bacterial contamination to grow. This could be benign but it might not be, and it's not worth taking the chance.

I have done work at sugar refineries and have some familiarity with the process. There is nothing that could go wrong in the refining process to leave sugar with such an "off" smell or taste. Pretty much nothing comes out of the melt that doesn't have the exact same physical properties as sucrose.

If you have the original packaging and it's a recent buy, I concur with taking it back to the store. The lot may have been exposed to dampness or other contamination before it was packed, which is quite possible. What comes out of the melt is pure, but a typical refinery does from hundreds of thousands to millions of pounds a day, and that pure sugar is conveyed long distances in sometimes very old industrial facilities before it gets put into bags and jars.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:11 PM on July 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

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