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Out-of-date bacon...Toss? Or use?

Brewing up a pot of cabbage soup for dinner tonight. Found a 16 oz package of thick cut major label bacon in the meat keeper of the refrigerator. Only problem is the use by date on the package is May, 2012. Package had never been opened. No mold or slime when I handled the bacon. Baked in the oven for about an hour and ten minutes at 310 degrees. No smell (except bacon) as it baked.

Can I take a chance that throwing it in the soup WILL NOT poison my family? Or should I just toss it into the garbage.

BTW...Dinner is about two hours away.

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  1. If its not ever been opened and didn't smell bad or was slimy as you noted, I think you're good. Remember that bacon was the result of curing and smoking meat so that it could be stored in the days before refrigeration. Take a taste to make sure since you cooked it to make sure its tastes fine. The baking will have also killed any bacteria.

    Let the naysayers start now telling you that you will endanger your family by doing anything other than throwing it out....

    1. It's up to you and your choices, but I'd use it.

      1. It's fine. Cured, smoked, vacuum-packed and unopened, it can last for months. If it's slimy or smells "off," that's when you pitch it.

        1. If it wasn't good, you'd know it. Because of the unadulterated vacuum seal, I'd say you're clear.

          1. If it's unopened it should be fine, but open it and give it the sniff test. I find once bacon is opened and becomes oxidized it goes off quickly - like a month depending on the humidity and your fridge.

            1. Thank you all, for your replies thus far.

              I did a taste test when I took the bacon out of the oven, and another just moments ago as it sits in the reefer waiting to go into the soup. Nice tastes both times. So...

              1. If there were baddies in the bacon, you killed them by baking it as you described.

                The "use by" date on American packaging is actually a "sell by" date, practically speaking, and is more for the guidance of food stores than their customers.

                6 Replies
                1. re: John Francis

                  As a Food Scientist I know not all microbs or hazards agents are killed by cooking the bacon. Heat resistant pores and toxins produced by C. botulinum or L. monocytogenes are never worth messing with.

                  Personally, I would have tossed the bacon out.

                  Not worth it.

                  1. re: Crockett67


                    Due to an unforseen event last night we put the soup on the back burner (so to speak). The bacon didn't get added, and the soup will be for dinner tonight.

                    I won't be using the bacon, tho.

                    Thanks Crockett67 and all who've responded here.

                    1. re: Crockett67

                      Now that we have the crucial info about the OP's compromised immune system (!) I obviously agree with you about not using this bacon. But as a food scientist you must know that botulinum toxin _is_ denatured by cooking, that the spores are harmless if ingested (by healthy adults), and that L. monocytogenes produces neither toxins nor spores and is also destroyed by cooking.

                      I'm all for being cautious, and _informed_. I am completely prepared to believe that eating bacon that's been expired for 3 or 4 months is dangerous, but can you, as a food scientist, tell us exactly what the risks are?

                      1. re: DeppityDawg

                        Additional resource

                        --FRI BRIEFINGS: Microbial Food Spoilage: Losses and Control Strategies Page 8

                        Processed Meat
                        Addition of sodium chloride, nitrites and/or nitrates,
                        along with various other seasonings, emulsifiers and
                        preservatives to ground or whole muscle meats
                        changes the environment significantly and also the
                        spoilage flora of processed meats. Dried and dry-fermented
                        meats generally do not support microbial
                        growth although process deviations may allow
                        growth of some organisms. Spoilage organisms can
                        grow on fresh and cooked cured meats, so they are
                        best stored chilled, under a vacuum or modified
                        Pseudomonas spp. are not usually important
                        causes of spoilage in processed meats because of
                        their sensitivity to curing salts and heat pasteurization
                        and their inability to grow well in meats packed with
                        a vacuum or high carbon dioxide atmosphere. However,
                        when packages have been opened and there has
                        been insufficient curing, these bacteria may spoil
                        refrigerated processed meats. Some cold- and salttolerant
                        Enterobacteriaceae have been found to cause
                        spoilage in some specific processed meats, such as
                        ham or bacon.
                        Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) is the group of bacteria
                        primarily associated with spoilage of processed
                        meats. They produce sour off-flavors, gas, slime, and
                        greening, and this spoilage may be more severe than
                        in fresh meat because of the presence of added carbohydrates.
                        Competitive ability of different LAB strains
                        is related to pH and water activity of the meat, cooking
                        and storage temperatures and oxygen and carbon
                        dioxide levels.
                        Sporeformers (Clostridium and Bacillus) are
                        usually not a spoilage problem in processed meats
                        because of the presence of nitrite and other curing
                        salts. However, faulty cooking/cooling procedures,
                        including long cooling periods and temperature
                        abuse, has allowed growth of these organisms in
                        some cases. Spores of these organisms may be introduced
                        with spices or other ingredients.
                        Yeasts cause some spoilage in processed meats
                        but are generally only important when sulfite is used
                        as a preservative or when meats have been irradiated
                        or are stored aerobically in the cold. Slime may be
                        produced along with vinegary or malty off-odors in
                        some sausages.

                        --page 5

                        Enterobacteriaceae are Gram-negative, facultatively
                        anaerobic bacteria that include a number of human
                        pathogens (Salmonella, E. coli, Shigella,
                        Yersinia) and also a large number of spoilage organisms.
                        These bacteria are widespread in nature in soil,
                        on plant surfaces and in digestive tracts of animals
                        and are therefore present in many foods. Erwinia
                        carotovora is one of the most important bacteria
                        causing soft rot of vegetables in the field or stored at
                        ambient temperatures. Biogenic amines are produced
                        in meat and fish by several members of this group
                        while others produce off-odors or colors in beer
                        (Obesumbacterium), bacon and other cured meats
                        (Proteus, Serratia), cheeses (several genera), cole
                        slaw (Klebsiella), and shell eggs (Proteus, Enterobacter,
                        Serratia). Temperature, salt concentration,
                        and pH are the most important factors determining
                        which, if any, of these microbes spoil foods.
                        Many Gram-negative bacteria, including pseudomonads
                        and enterobacteriaceae, secrete acyl homoserine
                        lactones (AHLs) to regulate the expression of
                        certain genes, such as virulence factors, as a function
                        of cell density. These AHL quorum-sensing signals
                        may regulate proteolytic enzyme production and iron
                        chelation during spoilage of some foods (134) although
                        the role of these signals in other spoilage systems
                        is not clear (20;97).

                        --page 5

                        1. re: DeppityDawg

                          Salt-tolerant micrococci and lactic acid bacteria. But Enterobacteriaceae comes to mind as well since the meat will have a microbial load even before processing. There are more food spoilage microorganism then the hot seven you keep hear about in food recalls.

                          Thing is, the meat is not sterile. And while hurdle technology is employed to reduce and inhibit microbial growth, the bacon is not and will never be sterile.

                          In fact the meat is such a good medium for microbial growth that so many hurdle technologies are employed to ensure product quality and safety. Reduced water activity, inhibiting agents, reduced oxygen atmosphere, and refrigeration. These are only hurddles and not barriers. Given that this is a gross over extension of the shelflife, the microbes have plenty of time to multiply and possible produce toxins or even spores. While cooking reduces log values of the microbial population, it does not kill all. If the colony is large enough there will be residual that survive the cooking process.

                          This is nothing to play around with. And while yes, many of the useby date is set to when food quality declines and not necessarily food safety, it’s on it’s way there.

                    2. Not to doubt a food scientist, but smoked meats, like bacon, were made to preserve the meat. If it smelled and tasted ok, I would use it...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: roxlet

                        True back then the way bacon was cured helped extend the life of bacon, but they had an added advantage, they were not wet packed. Bacon today purcashed in plastic cryovaced bags is not the same as dry aged bacon and should not be considered as such.

                      2. I agree with the vast majority. Eat the bacon.

                        1. Both my wife and I have compromised immune systems, so I'll not take the chance on whether its good. Or, whether its bad.

                          Again, thank you all for participating in this discussion.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: RedTop

                            I think it's wise to skip it with a compromised immune system. I would eat the bacon, but would strongly advise my immune compromised step-father to skip it (just as I eat burgers cooked medium, but he does not).

                            1. re: RedTop

                              It's little tidbits like those that are good to bring up at the beginning of a discussion. I doubt that anyone here would recommend you take a chance if you have immune system issues.

                              1. re: Samalicious

                                I'm not a Rocket Scientist, so I just wasn't that forward thinking when I first asked the question. LOL.