If you’ve started a healthy diet recently that emphasizes eating lots of vegetables, such as carrots, it’s very common to buy large quantities of carrots and other veggies and be unable to finish them all. We’ve all been there
It can be difficult to eat them quickly enough before they start to show signs of going bad, and you’re left with the dreaded soggy or slimy carrots.
So at what point can you tell that a bag of carrots has started to go bad?
Why do carrots go slimy in the fridge?
According to Colorado State University’s Food Source Information website, it is fairly common for carrots of different varieties (whether whole, shredded, sliced or baby-cut carrots) to carry pathogenic strains of bacteria.
In particular, carrots (like other vegetables) are more vulnerable to contamination by a spore-forming strain of bacteria called Clostridium botulinum, due to the low levels of acid found in vegetables.
Please be aware that it’s normal for microorganisms to be present in the food you eat.
Microorganisms are always a part of your own body’s ecology as well! In fact, the NIH reports the following:
“The human body contains trillions of microorganisms — outnumbering human cells by 10 to 1.
Because of their small size, however, microorganisms make up only about 1 to 3 percent of the body’s mass (in a 200-pound adult, that’s 2 to 6 pounds of bacteria), but play a vital role in human health.”
Just let that sink in — the cells of microorganisms in your body outnumber the actual cells of your body by a factor of 10 to 1!
All of this is to reiterate that you don’t need to fear microbes per se.
Germs aren’t inherently bad, and not all of them are disease-causing — some of them are actually vital to your health.
The issue with microbes with regards to food spoiling is that sometimes, pathogenic strains of bacteria, viruses, or fungi can start to proliferate and dominate, and the balance is upset.
This is what is going on under the surface when you notice your carrots starting to get slimy or mushy, and this is why you should proceed with caution when you notice these signs.
“The slime on carrots involves an overgrowth of Leuconostoc gelidum and Leuconostoc gasicomitatum strains of the lactic acid bacterium. (LAB) They are gram-positive, non-motile, non-sporulating, facultatively anaerobic psychrotrophic LABs. Most times, they are associated with vegetable spoilage, especially vegetable products that are vacuum-packed.”
It’s due to the overgrowth of these particular strains of bacteria that carrots start to develop a layer of slime.
This is why if you have slimy carrots, you can’t simply rinse them with water to resolve the issue — it takes more than that to neutralize the harmful bacteria.
Can you eat a soggy carrot?
Sogginess can definitely be indicative of carrots beginning to spoil, just like slimy or mushy carrots can be a warning sign.
But you can make a distinction here between a soggy texture and a floppy texture.
If your carrots are soft, floppy, or rubbery when you try to bend them, but show no other signs of spoiling (like visible mold growing or a slimy surface), it’s likely that your carrots are not rotting, but are simply dehydrated.
Carrots are between 80 and 95% water, so any water loss will result in a change of texture that is not necessarily pathogenic.
In this case, your carrots are still salvageable!
All you need to do is soak the carrots in a bowl or tub of clean, fresh, cold water for up to 5 hours to help them regain their crispy, juicy texture.
Can mushy carrots make you sick?
If you do happen to eat some slimy or gooey carrots, you may develop some digestive distress.
If you’re going to get sick, it will likely happen within 24-48 hours or sooner.
You will likely have some discomfort, but no lasting effects from eating rotting carrots.
Your body will resolve the issue and return itself back to homeostasis, and you should be fine after that.
Interestingly, the digestive symptoms themselves (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea) are your body’s way of ridding itself of the harmful bacterial intruders and returning to a more balanced state.
Common symptoms of food poisoning associated with eating rotten or contaminated carrots include diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain or cramping, nausea, headache or body ache, dizziness, fatigue, or lightheadedness.
If you believe you may have a case of food-borne illness, you can consult the Mayo Clinic’s web page for more information, and call your doctor for advice as to what to do.
Most cases of food poisoning are unpleasant for a day or so, and then resolve without causing any long-term damage.
Interestingly, some people will be able to eat certain types of rotting food without showing any signs of food poisoning or digestive distress.
These people may have developed a tolerance to a wide range of bacteria.
It’s probably still not wise for these people to regularly eat spoiled food, but they may be able to get away with eating some slightly mushy carrots from time to time.