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Food Safety Issues/poorly sealed jar of olives


  I recently purchased a jar of Spanish olives at a local supermarket.  When I went to open it, I noticed that it was very easy to open and there was no whosh noice upon opening.  I was uncertain as to whether it was safe to use and threw away the sandwiches I had made.  Do you think there was cause for concern?  I contacted the store and they said I could get a refund for the item, but the call was mine as to whether I should use them.

ANSWER: Hi Diane,

Fortunately, olives are an acidic food that does not support the growth of harmful bacteria so you will not be subject to food poisoning, even if the jar was not fully sealed.  Olives in brine juice are often stored at room temperature in olive stores and this is because they are not a potentially hazardous food capable of supporting the growth of harmful bacteria. So it would not have been necessary to throw out the sandwiches.

Some jar lids are easier to open and do not give a distinctive "pop" or "whoosh" sound, though they are sealed.

I would take the store up on the offer to give you a refund.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Yes thanks except when I first when on line and googled this question I clicked your site your global response was to throw the jar away. Thanks again anyway.
D. Brandon

Hi Again,

Yes, normally I do say "pitch" the jar but in the case of acidified foods, which are not subject to bacterial growth, you can be less concerned about any foodborne illness.  If the jar appeared to be tampered with I would definitely pitch but since some jars, while sealed, don't give a pop or swoosh sound, they are still safe to consume.

Of course, when in doubt, throw it out is always the safest advice.


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Carol Schlitt


I can answer questions on home food safety, sanitation and home food preservation.


I am a former Extension educator, nutrition, wellness and food safety, having retired August 1, 2010. I am a food safety instructor for the Illinois Department of Public Health, a ServSafe Instructor/Proctor and have my own company, Safe & Savory Solutions, Inc -

National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (Past President and current Historian), St. Louis Culinary Society.

BS - University of Illinois MS - Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

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