Health is an important factor of one's life. Food that appears rotten on the spot (decayed appearance and smell, unusual texture, the presence of mold) can be eaten if certain precautions are made. Dumpster divers often scavenge food that is partially rotten, unripened, or overripe, as this isn't a problem if it's properly treated and prepared. Each potentially compromising item has its own set of warning signs.
- Eggs that have passed their expiration date are often quite fine to eat for some time - just use the float test method to determine if they are still safe to eat. Fill a deep bowl with water and place the egg in it - if it sinks, it's OK to eat, but if it floats it is bad. How this works is that as the egg ages, more air is allowed to seep into the egg, increasing the chance of contamination.
- Green spots on potatoes indicate the presence of the toxin solanine, which should be avoided in large amounts.
- Persimmons, high in glucose and riboflavin (vitamin B2), should not be eaten unripened or in large quantities though as this can cause serious health problems; it is also recommended not to eat persimmons on an empty stomach (more information on this precaution is located here).
In general, if you engage in dumpster diving, it is common sense to refrain from partaking of any obviously rotten food. Some overly soft fruits and vegetables, however, can still be salvageable once rid of suspicious spots. It should also be noted, that the expiration date and shelf life on a product is often an inaccurate marker for whether or not an item is edible. Pasteurized milk, for example, may remain fresh for five days after its sell-by date if it is refrigerated properly. When dumpster diving food that is expired, a careful observation will often tell you if something is amiss. In most cases the smell of bad juice or milk is instantly recognizable.
Ways to treat diseased food
- Treat your fruit of vegetables with a disinfectant made from water and sodium hypochlorite bleach to a 10:1 ratio. They should always be rinsed in fresh, plain water afterwards.
- Crush the fruit into a purée, then boil it. This makes a delicious (and safe-to-eat) broth.
- Do the same as in the bleach method with an undiluted solution of vinegar. Don't rinse off if you prefer a vinegary taste to your produce.
Cooking thoroughly after cleaning will kill most anything harmful, with perhaps the exception of Clostridium botulinum spores, which is a concern with damaged canned food. Swollen cans should be avoided.
Furniture should be inspected for bedbugs, especially furniture from dorms since so many people move in and out of there. Bedbugs will hide in almost everything, and people often freak out and throw furniture away once they find an infestation (and infestations can happen anywhere). Check for bedbugs before you bring anything inside, and keep mattresses in a plastic wrap for dust mites with duct tape over the zipper.