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Jan 12, 2007 02:27 PM

What foods do not spoil?

I know that honey doesn't spoil usually, even at room temperature, but i'm curious about other foods that don't spoil, despite their labels etc.

For example, I've been keeping my strawberry jam at room temperature (even though the label says i should keep it refrigerated) for over 8 months (!) and it tastes fine.. and i feel fine after eating it.. same thing with peanut butter.

What about other things? does water (once you've opened it) ever spoil in the bottle if left out in the car too long? what about crackers, cookies etc? potato chips?

what about garlic? if it's all mushy, is it time to throw it out? i guess most veggies and fruits are only good for 1-2 weeks?

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  1. Opened water left in a car = mold after a while. And it's just not fresh. Same thing goes for crackers, chips, etc. They'll go stale, so why push it?

    Jam... maybe, but why not put it in the fridge and make it last longer? I have to assume you have enough space in your fridge for a jar of jam...

    Garlic. My garlic doesn't turn mushy, it dries out. Mushy garlic is most certainly not good. You should throw it out immediately. If you're talking jarred garlic, well shame on you.

    I'd say there are very few things that are good forever. Honey is a remarkable thing, yes, but even canned goods have a "best by..." date.

    If you're running a scientific experiment this question may be worth exploring, but why risk freshness and defy ingredient labels if it does no good?

    6 Replies
    1. re: HaagenDazs

      Not only will the water get moldy, it can develop harmful bacteria once opened, a worse problem since you won't be able to taste it and tell it has gone 'bad'.

      1. re: HaagenDazs

        My grandparents have kept their jam out on the kitchen table for as long as I can remember, and have not suffered any ill effects as a result. My grandma even keeps her Hellman's mayo in the cabinet after opening, though I'm a little dubious about that one . . . can't say I've ever gotten sick at her house though!

        We Americans are known for our non-refridgerated food phobia, and perhaps in some cases, it really is an unnecessary worry.

        1. re: operagirl

          Maybe it is an unnecessary worry, but I'll give you $1000 if you can't find enough space in your fridge for a couple jars of condiments. My point is - do you lose quality by refrigerating a jar of jam or mayo? No. Do you prolong the life on such an item when refrigerated? Yes. Why risk it? Maybe your grandparents are only used to keeping stuff out on the table because they grew up with it that way. I'm not kidding here, but refrigerators as we know them are a relatively recent household appliance.

          1. re: HaagenDazs

            Hmm don't worry about me -- I'm as refridgerator-happy as the next gal. My soy sauce, ketchup, and other sundry condiments are quite frigid! I was just mentioning my grandparents as an example.

            1. re: HaagenDazs

              Jam is better unrefrigerated for FLAVOR. If you notice in most European nations they dont refrigerate many fruit and veggies do to this fact. IMHO we americans need to stress freshness and not preservatives.

              1. re: Jimbosox04

                Agreed about jam & jelly- tastier at room temp. Both these foods were around long before refrigeration, and they used to be called "preserves."

          1. re: eLizard

            It doesn't spoil per se but it does lose flavor.

            1. re: jpschust

              Does mold growth count as "spoiled"?

              I once had a jar of honey that was starting to become its own ecosystem ...

              1. re: ipsedixit

                That's strange - maybe it had some extra water in it or something? Maybe it was a highly processed brand (for whatever reason)? There's been honey found in Egyptian tombs that's still good...

                1. re: HaagenDazs

                  Exactly- true honey should still be ok to eat years later, but at the same time it won't taste as good.

                  1. re: HaagenDazs

                    Yep, honey will crystallize but it has definite antiseptic properties- the ancient Egyptians used it not just as a food but also as a wound dressing, and recent studies have found it to be as effective as modern triple antibiotic ointment on minor cuts.

            2. Very salty things, like anchovies, don't usually spoil. They just need to be stored (meaning closed in a jar or container) at the room tempurature properly without being exposed to high heat or light

              Tea leaves do not spoil but they should be stored in containers or zipped bags properly

              Dried ingredients do not spoil but may lose flavor if kept for a looong time.

              1. the reason i'm wondering is that i tend to keep a lot of foodstuff in my office, and not at the communal fridge (because it's very far and i'm too lazy to walk there), and i just noticed today, as i was eating my strawberry jam that it's been sitting there for 8 months at least.. my office is definitely temperature controlled and not overheated.. but still, i was shocked.. and wanted to get a list of other food items i may be able to keep in my office so i dont have to trek out to the communal kitchen.

                6 Replies
                1. re: koreankorean

                  Jam should be be fine if it still looks and tastes ok. The sugar preserves it, even at room temperature.

                  1. re: Kagey

                    You've had jam out for 8 months and it hasn't gone bad? My friend gave me a jar of home made raspberry jam, which I kept in the fridge. Even in the fridge, it started to develop mold spores after a month and a half or so. I was so bummed!! I had to throw it out, after a measly 1.5 months.

                    1. re: anzu

                      That's homemade. It doesn't have the preservatives, and may not have as much sugar in it as store-bought jam.

                      As far as other goods, whether they have fat in them and the type of fat has a lot to do with how long they will last. I'm no expert, but I believe that trans fats and some tropical fats like coconut oil have a much longer shelf life than other types of oils.

                      ipsedixit mentions spoiled honey; it could have been contaminated by something else, perhaps? Always use a clean spoon/implement to remove the honey.

                      1. re: Full tummy

                        It depends on the sugar level; 66% sugar jam doesn't go off. Lower percentages need to be refrigerated.

                        Honey isn't necessarily shelf stable either; it depends on the natural moisture level; high levels of water allow it to ferment or otherwise degrade.

                  2. re: koreankorean

                    I wouldn't risk it personally. You don't have to see or taste bacteria for it to be harmful. Room temperature is the danger zone, so it doesn't have to be overly heated for something to go bad. I would not eat out of an open jar jam that has been out of the fridge for more than a couple days personally. Other people will say we are too cautious, or that their grandparents did this and that (mayo!!!!) and they have not been sick. It only takes one time for it to be a major problem and something you don't want to experience ever again.
                    Non-natural peanut butter is fine because it has preservatives. Honey should be fine. Can't think of much else.

                    1. re: koreankorean

                      I too will keep a lot of foodstuff in my office (and I don't like using the communal fridge because things go missing). So while the things I am going to list, eventually do spoil, they keep pretty well for a while in my office: cereal (work has free milk in fridge), pop tarts, oatmeal packets, cup ramen, soy sauce, hot sauce, crackers, some chocolate, a little pepper grinder, a little salt grinder, and granola bars. Its kinda embarrassing how much I have in there so I don't open up that file drawer when people are around! Oh, and a few bottles of water.

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