Out-of-date bacon...Toss?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.
re: John Francis
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?
--FRI BRIEFINGS: Microbial Food Spoilage: Losses and Control Strategies Page 8
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
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
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).
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.
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....