Our natural inclination when encountering uncertain edibles is to give them a good sniff – a universal habit. Yet, a scientist has illuminated the fallibility of this practice. Evidently, relying heavily on our olfactory senses for gauging food’s state isn’t the most accurate approach.
While we might intuit this inaccuracy, it remains common for us to employ our sense of smell as a determinant for assessing the edibility of items in question, particularly within the confines of our refrigerators. This tendency stems from the imperfections of expiration dates, which can prove less dependable than desired, particularly for foods packaged for resealing. So, what alternative measures should we consider?
Don’t Rely on Your Sense of Smell
When faced with an open mortadella container left by a family member, the instinct to sniff a slice and gauge the sensations it conveys might seem like a sensible move. However, this practice isn’t as helpful as it may appear. Although there are isolated cases where the scent test might provide insight, they are few and far between. Hence, when viewed in proportion, the likelihood of our noses being accurate detectors of food quality is rather slim.
Microbes Present in Your Food
Bacteria and microbes can find their way into our food for various reasons. In certain instances, their presence is beneficial and doesn’t necessarily indicate spoilage. It’s important to recognize that these microbes can also emit distinct aromas. For example, the delightful smell when baking bread is a result of yeast activity.
The intensity of odors arising from food microbes correlates with their population growth. In certain cases, like milk, our sense of smell can detect issues, potentially sparing us from undesirable outcomes. The nose’s role becomes crucial in cases like old milk, where numerous bacteria could propagate, allowing us to avoid potential risks. However, such instances are exceptional and uncommon. Scientist Matthew Gilmour asserts that relying solely on smell to determine the edibility of food is an unreliable technique. It’s incapable of distinguishing between harmful bacteria like salmonella or listeria, a limitation within a narrow range of possibilities.
In practice, it’s more practical to assess the appearance of the food in question. Microbes and bacteria not only affect the food’s condition, sometimes producing unpleasant smells, but also alter its visual characteristics. This is due to bacteria consuming the food, leading to noticeable changes. For instance, meat might darken in color or exhibit white spots and other visual cues discernible to the naked eye.
According to Gilmour, the act of smelling food in doubt yields limited benefits. He advocates channeling effort into improving our food storage practices instead. Using airtight containers or quality plastics for storage can prove pivotal, reducing the need for repeated sniff tests to determine food’s freshness.