People use ground beef to create a variety of dishes because it is relatively inexpensive. Ground beef can harbor dangerous bacteria whenever it expires. The meat needs refrigerated immediately to prevent bacteria from growing. If you keep the meat past the recommended sell by date, it can be dangerous to consume. Examining the ground beef carefully can help you to determine if it has expired. If meat shows any indication of spoilage, it needs discarded immediately to prevent a food-borne illness.
Sell By Date
Examine the “sell by” or “use by” date on the ground beef package. The date on the package will give you an indication of when the ground beef will expire. Stores place this date on the package so that they know when it needs removed from the shelves. The expiration date is not the only indicator when determining if the meat has expired, but it will give you a general idea of when you need to use the beef.
Look at the color of the ground meat. Fresh ground beef has a red color once it has been exposed to oxygen. Vacuum-sealed ground beef may not receive enough oxygen and may have a gray or purple tint, which does not necessarily indicate spoilage. Ground beef that appears gray or dark brown all the way through and does not turn red when exposed to oxygen may have spoiled. Discard the ground beef if you are in doubt of its freshness.
Smell the ground beef when you remove it from the package. If the meat smells foul or sour, then it needs discarded. A hint of an off odor can indicate that the meat has expired. Fresh ground meat will only have a fresh meat smell that does not smell questionable. Discard the ground beef if you notice a rancid odor to prevent consuming spoiled meat. If the meat smells bad, you may want to discard it into an outdoor trashcan because it can make your house smell bad.
Touch the surface of the ground meat. Feel the ground meat carefully to determine if it has a slimy feeling. When bacteria multiplies on the beef, it alters the texture and causes it to have an odd texture. The ground meat might feel extremely tacky or sticky as well. If the texture of the ground beef feels odd, discard the meat to prevent the risk of a food-borne illness. Wash your hands with an antibacterial soap afterward to prevent spreading the bacteria to other surfaces.
Consuming spoiled or expired ground beef can cause you to become ill. Avoid tasting spoiled ground beef to determine if it has an off taste because a small bite can cause an illness. The elderly, pregnant women and individuals with weak immune systems are more likely to become severely ill from spoiled meat. Expired ground beef contains dangerous bacteria that can cause salmonella, staphylococcus and other food-borne illnesses. Food poisoning can cause vomiting, diarrhea, fever and even death.
References and ResourcesStill Tasty: Is Raw Ground Beef OK if It's Turning Brown?
Virginia Tech University; Food Storage Guidelines for Consumers; Renee Boyer, et al.; May 2009