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In this case, smell was all that was needed.
Spoilage is a tricky issue. I’ve passed the Food Safety certificate, and I’d say that what is required in the food business is not necessarily what is required at home.
There are many food authors, and at the moment I’m thinking Michael Ruhlman, who say “If it doesn’t smell bad, go ahead and eat it”. Just yesterday (April 3) I pulled a package out of the fridge that was dated January 17. It was some chicken we had cooked sous-vide and the leftovers were vacuum packed with a strong chamber sealer.
I opened the package and it smelled like chicken. MILDLY. But like chicken. Not like any spoilage.
I’m torn between the sous-vide recipes for home that say “store for up to three weeks in the fridge” and the professional ones that say “store for up to two days”. Probably this has to do with “acceptable risk” and litigation in America.
We’re currently in a medical take-no-risks situation, so I pitched it. But otherwise I would not have been scared to eat this meat that was cooked and then packaged 10 weeks ago.
Getting back to your question — left alone, unfettered, for several weeks, I’d expect the smell to be a good indication of spoilage. I’d expect the spoilage to have a good chance to build up the smells that we humans can detect. In this case it wasn’t gasses. The bag didn’t swell like a balloon. But while trimming and cutting there was no denying that something went wrong.
For me, yes, smell alone at this point. It’d be great if somebody made a test strip, but nobody has.