Is it Safe to Eat?
Very rarely is the packaging of products in supermarkets designed with blind people in mind. The only exception to this is medication, which is now also labelled in braille as well as print. This is still quite a recent thing really and I must admit, I still get a buzz of excitement whenever i find anything in a shop with braille on it. For me, labelling food products is not a massive issue, as I explain in a previous blog post, I have worked out other ways of identifying ingredients. The one concern I do have is knowing whether something is safe to eat, ie. what is it’s use by or best before date? I obviously don’t want to eat anything that has gone off or is mouldy and so I have to take extra care to make sure I don’t.
There are several checks and adjustments I can make to ensure what I am eating is safe. I tend to freeze a lot. Bread and meat goes straight in to the freezer the day I buy it and then I just remove what I need on a daily basis and let it thoroughly defrost before eating it. This does mean I need a large freezer and have to be organised, but it’s a small price to pay to ensure I don’t get ill. It also reduces waste as even if things do go past their best before date then as they have been frozen it doesn’t matter.
Smell Is a great indicator of whether something has gone off or not. If it doesn’t smell right or as it should, then don’t use it is my rule that I stick to. The problem with this is that sometimes you can really get caught out and smell something really bad that makes your stomach turn. Obvious examples of this are milk and eggs. I once broke a bad egg in to a bowl and the smell was so bad that It put me off eating eggs for ages. I just couldn’t face it.
The feel of something is another great indication. I always check that my fruit and vegetables are safe to eat by touch. If there is a patch that doesn’t feel right, ie. softer, squishier, harder or furrier than normal then I either cut it out if it is small enough or just throw it away. You can also feel if bread is mouldy by whether it is harder than normal or if it has really been left too long, furry. Cheese goes hard around the edges if it isn’t good to eat and yogurt separates, so if it is runnier than normal then don’t eat it. Unfortunately a consequence of having to check whether something is safe through touch does mean that sometimes I do feel something particularly disgusting, like when you put your hand in to a bag of apples or oranges and one goes to mush in it, but I would rather that than it go in to my mouth.
The sound of something being shaken can also indicate whether it has gone off or not. This goes mainly for things in jars. If something shouldn’t really make a noise but when you give it a shake you can hear liquid moving around then you know that something isn’t right. The same goes for if there should be liquid but it doesn’t move. The key is to know what things should do when they are in date and if they don’t conform to this, then alarm bells should ring.
Sometimes none of these options are effective and I just have to throw all caution to the wind and go in for the taste test. If I am sceptical as to whether something has gone off but smells, feels or sounds ok, then I just have to have a tiny taste in order to check. This is most common with things like juice, milk or yogurt. If juice or anything with fruit in it has gone off, then the only way to describe it is that it tastes fizzy. Yogurt and milk taste sour.
One time Neil and I bought breakfast at Aberdeen airport while waiting for a plane back home to Manchester and we decided to treat ourselves to pancakes. Only they turned out not to be a treat as they came with supposedly fresh fruit and yogurt, but when taking my first bite I realised the fruit had gone off as it had that fizzy taste to it. Needless to say we didn’t eat our pancakes and were left very disappointed, but in a way, I was reassured that its not just me that struggles. Sometimes, sighted people would benefit from taking a small taste of the food they are serving to check that it tastes acceptable first.
I am not a big fan of having lots of things open in my fridge as the longer you leave something that has been opened, the more likely it is to go off. I try to always use anything within 1 or 2 days of opening to minimise this risk. This does again lead to having to be very organised and plan ahead but everyone should know by now that if there is one thing i’m good at, then its having a plan, and sticking to it. I hate to throw out or waste food as there are so many people around the world who are in need of it, so I try to minimise this as much as possible.
It is important to remember that best before dates are just that, and can be taken with a pinch of salt, so long as it is a couple of days either way and the food smells, feels or appears to be fine. I’m sure we’ve all been dubious about something but when we’ve removed the packaging the food has been perfectly edible. I am also well aware that I have probably on many occasion eaten food that has been past it’s use by date but not noticed. The key thing to remember is that I am still here, still alive and never made myself ill from eating food I have provided myself.
Have you ever had any mishaps with accidentally eating out of date food? Or been able to tell if something is out of date before even looking at it? Please share your stories because I’m sure we can all learn from it.
Thank you for reading and speak soon.