Food Safety Issues/sour/spoiled chicken?


I ate a takeout chicken dish from the local asian place tonight.   One piece of chicken just tasted funny when I put it in my mouth.  Sort of like a little sour.  I spit it out, and it also seemed to have a different, sort of off smell to it than all of the other pieces of chicken.  I googled eating spoiled chicken and it is terrifying...some sites said it could pretty much be any type of bacteria, including botulism, and cause very serious illnesses.  If it was a spoiled piece of chicken, is the chance of food poisonong great?

Hi Sara,

Sorry to have taken 2 days to answer your question as I had computer issues and only got them resolved today.

Fortunately,  off flavor food indicated food spoilage, or Mother Nature's way of saying "don't eat me."  Normally food spoilage results in food having an off flavor, color, texture, or smell and the good news is that this type of spoilage does not cause food borne illness. The bad news is that this obvious indication that something is not right can often hide other bacteria and their toxins which give off no signal that they are present and can make you ill.  Thus the general recommendation that if something doesn't look right, taste right or smell right -- pitch it -- is a good motto to live by.

Without laboratory analysis there is no way to determining what organism or other entity caused the off flavor and smell. But I am confident that it is not Clostridium Botulinium as this bacteria ONLY survives in no oxygen situations (canned and other vacuum packaged foods) and fortunately is a very rare organism that is highly monitored and regulated in our food production facilities.  This is why you very, very rarely hear about botulism being a problem except for those that improperly home can low acid foods.

So is there a chance for food poisoning with a spoiled piece of chicken?  Yes, there is always a chance with any food you consume, spoiled or not.  The chances are higher with spoiled chicken as it has obviously been temperature abused somewhere in it's history which allowed food spoilage organisms to flourish and grow. But all spoiled food does not harbor harmful food borne illness organisms and here's hoping that your experience was unfortunate but benign.


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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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