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How to Tell When Lunch Meats Are Bad


The other day DearSugar dragged me to the kitchen and asked me to inspect her sliced deli turkey. It had been sitting in the fridge for more than a couple of days and she wasn't sure if the turkey was still edible or not. I explained that there are several ways to tell when cold cuts have gone bad:

  • Start by looking at the sell by date. All lunch meats (whether they are prepackaged or fresh cut from the deli) have a sell by date. It's best to consume the meat within seven to 10 days after the sell by date.
  • Generally speaking, once it's been opened, eat within three to five days.
  • If the meat is extremely slimy with a film on the outside, throw it away.
  • Any odd or off smells of vinegar, ammonia, or yeast mean it's time to throw the turkey, pastrami, or ham out.
  • This goes without saying, but if there's any mold or growths on the meat or package, dispose of it immediately.

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