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  #1  
Old 09-01-2011, 09:34 PM
JoelUpchurch JoelUpchurch is offline
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Why would a package of sliced ham swell up?

I got a one of the two packs of Kirkland sliced ham at Costco. The first pack was fine, but the 2nd pack has swollen up like a balloon. The expiration date is 9/13. My inclination is to throw it out, but I thought I would check if there is a harmless explanation for it.
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  #2  
Old 09-01-2011, 09:42 PM
Manduck Manduck is offline
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I would take it back to the store and get a refund. I suspect the culprit is some kind of bacteria or yeast.
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  #3  
Old 09-01-2011, 09:43 PM
OldGuy OldGuy is online now
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Throw it out. Don't even open it first. Sure someone might have injected it with air using a syringe and then sealed the hole, but nasty things are incredibly more likely. Why take any chance.
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  #4  
Old 09-01-2011, 09:49 PM
Blake Blake is offline
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There are harmless explanations, but unless you have a home bacteriological test kit you must assume it's not harmless. Those are airtight packets, which means that they can grow botulism. There's no such thing as trivial botulism poisoning. Even minor cases usually cause permanent damage.

Throw the stuff in the bin and make sure the neighbourhood scavengers can't get at it... or not depending on how much you like raccoons and stray dogs.

Most bacteria that grow on anaerobic meat are fairly harmless. They impart an unpleasant taste to the meat but they won't hurt you at all. Most of the ones that are harmful will only cause a stomach upset. However there are a few that cause really nasty symptoms: blindness, brain damage, insanity, kidney failure and of course the ever-popular death. In some cases one strain of a species is harmless an another causes irreparable organ failure. There's just no way of knowing which one you have without a bacteriological test kit.

Are you feeling lucky?
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  #5  
Old 09-01-2011, 09:52 PM
JoelUpchurch JoelUpchurch is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manduck View Post
I would take it back to the store and get a refund. I suspect the culprit is some kind of bacteria or yeast.
I guess I could try. I've never asked for a refund on half a package of ham before. The trouble is the gas driving to Costco costs more than the ham.

After reading the Ham Storage Chart, I wonder if I should freeze the other half of the package next time.

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/ham/index.asp
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  #6  
Old 09-01-2011, 09:53 PM
running coach running coach is online now
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It's trying to establish dominance over you. Don't let it. You are the boss of the home.
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  #7  
Old 09-01-2011, 10:00 PM
PaulParkhead PaulParkhead is offline
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No argument with the "throw it out" advice - that's exactly what I'd do. But what is it that causes the pack to swell up? In other words, what's happening to the meat that produces these gases?
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  #8  
Old 09-01-2011, 10:00 PM
JoelUpchurch JoelUpchurch is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake View Post
There are harmless explanations, but unless you have a home bacteriological test kit you must assume it's not harmless. Those are airtight packets, which means that they can grow botulism. There's no such thing as trivial botulism poisoning. Even minor cases usually cause permanent damage.

Throw the stuff in the bin and make sure the neighbourhood scavengers can't get at it... or not depending on how much you like raccoons and stray dogs.

Most bacteria that grow on anaerobic meat are fairly harmless. They impart an unpleasant taste to the meat but they won't hurt you at all. Most of the ones that are harmful will only cause a stomach upset. However there are a few that cause really nasty symptoms: blindness, brain damage, insanity, kidney failure and of course the ever-popular death. In some cases one strain of a species is harmless an another causes irreparable organ failure. There's just no way of knowing which one you have without a bacteriological test kit.

Are you feeling lucky?
No I don't feel lucky. I'll double bag it and not take it to the curb until the morning when the trash men come.
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  #9  
Old 09-01-2011, 10:05 PM
PaulParkhead PaulParkhead is offline
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Originally Posted by runner pat View Post
It's trying to establish dominance over you. Don't let it. You are the boss of the home.
And punch it in the nose if it tries to eat your dog?
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  #10  
Old 09-01-2011, 10:14 PM
JoelUpchurch JoelUpchurch is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulParkhead View Post
No argument with the "throw it out" advice - that's exactly what I'd do. But what is it that causes the pack to swell up? In other words, what's happening to the meat that produces these gases?
This happened once before to me at Costco. I think I'm buying my sliced ham at Sams from now on and keeping the unused half in the freezer. The ham looked fine when I bought it. I didn't notice any swelling at all until I went to get it out of the refrigerator.
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  #11  
Old 09-01-2011, 10:20 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulParkhead View Post
No argument with the "throw it out" advice - that's exactly what I'd do. But what is it that causes the pack to swell up? In other words, what's happening to the meat that produces these gases?
Bacteria decompose the meat.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decomposition

Note this may make you lose your appetite.

Last edited by DrDeth; 09-01-2011 at 10:20 PM..
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  #12  
Old 09-01-2011, 10:26 PM
JoelUpchurch JoelUpchurch is offline
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I was putting a freezer bag over it and noticed there is a lot of fluid in the container. I think I'll take a few pictures and email a note to Costco HQ.
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  #13  
Old 09-01-2011, 10:31 PM
No umlaut for U No umlaut for U is offline
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To elaborate:
Some bacteria, deemed heterofermenters, turn carbohydrate into carbon dioxide and acids. Some of these also can make the most evil snotty slime. Yeasts tend to do carbon dioxide & ethanol instead. Other bacteria turn protein into gasses.

The odds of this being botulism are slight since sodium nitrite inhibits Clostridium botulinum. Plus, most strains of this don't grow at refrigerator temps.
Another explanation, less likely, is if a fresh-cooked cold-cut roll is chilled with carbon dioxide "snow". If packaged very speedily, the sublimation causes the package to swell. This is more common with raw meats sold frozen.

Would I eat it? Hell, no.
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  #14  
Old 09-01-2011, 10:33 PM
PaulParkhead PaulParkhead is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDeth View Post
Bacteria decompose the meat.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decomposition

Note this may make you lose your appetite.
Right, so they (the bacteria) kinda like, eat the meat? And turn it into methane and hydrogen sulphide and so on? Or rather, excrete these gases in the process.

In which case I should probably try killing that bloated meat package with fire.
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  #15  
Old 09-01-2011, 10:37 PM
Marconi N. Cheese Marconi N. Cheese is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulParkhead View Post
Right, so they (the bacteria) kinda like, eat the meat? And turn it into methane and hydrogen sulphide and so on? Or rather, excrete these gases in the process.

In which case I should probably try killing that bloated meat package with fire.
Nuke it from orbit. It's they only way to be sure.
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  #16  
Old 09-01-2011, 10:52 PM
JoelUpchurch JoelUpchurch is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDeth View Post
Bacteria decompose the meat.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decomposition

Note this may make you lose your appetite.
The gasses created during bloat could explain the condition of the package.

These pictures are nothing. I worked on the software for a wound management system. There were some color plates you didn't want to look at after lunch. The checklists were bad enough. Is the wound oozing? What color is it oozing? What is the smell?
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  #17  
Old 09-02-2011, 04:20 PM
Mama Zappa Mama Zappa is offline
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I had this happen once with a package of store-brand lunchmeat. It was the kind that is in a reusable gladware-like container, with the meat sealed in a plastic envelope inside. It was fine when I grabbed it from the case, but by the time I got to checkout, the envelope had puffed up and popped open the plastic container it was in.

I figured it was just cold air expanding once it was outside the refrigerator case, so I took it home anyway. And it didn't deflate in the fridge there. So we tossed it.

My theory now is that something was brewing, the warmth let the existing gases expand, and also let the "brewing" get going nice and strong.

On another recent occasion, I'd gotten prepackaged fresh pineapple spears (individually wrapped) for box lunches. A day or so later, I grabbed one of the remaining ones - and noticed its bag was puffy too. As nobody had died from eating the others, I opened it and took an experimental bite. Bleah - tasted like it was fermenting. I spat out the bite and tossed the rest. The taste seems to have done me no harm.
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  #18  
Old 09-08-2011, 09:59 AM
race_to_the_bottom race_to_the_bottom is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OldGuy View Post
Throw it out. Don't even open it first. Sure someone might have injected it with air using a syringe and then sealed the hole, but nasty things are incredibly more likely. Why take any chance.
Don't throw it out. That's like throwing away money. Take it back. They will exchange it or give you your money back. If you aren't going back to Costco for awhile, throw it into your freezer until you do.
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  #19  
Old 09-08-2011, 10:06 AM
rogerbox rogerbox is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by race_to_the_bottom View Post
Don't throw it out. That's like throwing away money. Take it back. They will exchange it or give you your money back. If you aren't going back to Costco for awhile, throw it into your freezer until you do.
Instead of this, you should call Cosco to ask about their return policy and keep your receipt if you still have it. I worked at a grocery store for 2 years and there is NO WAY I would rather have you bring in rotten meat than to just take your word for it.

Worst story: Some lady bought some carrot juice that turned and wanted a refund. I said "Sure no problem" and then she proceeded to say "Look, here..." and I said "NO NO NO!" as she proceeded to open the container of rotten carrot juice and spill it on my counter after I JUST told her she could have a refund.

Last edited by rogerbox; 09-08-2011 at 10:07 AM..
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  #20  
Old 11-17-2012, 04:55 PM
pmarin pmarin is offline
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I found this page because I had a similar question about a package of shredded cheese that had "puffed." I'd always heard that cheese does not grow any "toxic" molds, at least, not the ones you can see. In this case there was nothing visible and the smell was fine -- just that the bag was puffed a bit (but not to the point of looking like it was going to explode or anything.) I figure this is "probably" OK, at least to cook into a recipe, but I can understand that there is always some concern with this. Any opinions. I like that this thread has people discussing what is really going on biologically -- that is what I'm trying to learn about.

Regarding the earlier post about "returning bad food items to Costco," they are very good about this. In fact, I'd say you don't need to bring the whole item back, just cut out the portion with the label (including the UPC any date codes, etc). You can put that into another plastic bag. They will refund you without any problems, at least, that is my experience. It will be best if you still have the receipt, though it doesn't seem to be absolutely necessary for Costco because they have access to all your purchase records based on your membership number. (This is also how they prevent people from abusing the system -- because all returns are tracked.)
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  #21  
Old 11-17-2012, 05:05 PM
Michael63129 Michael63129 is offline
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Cheese can and does grow mold, although the USDA doesn't consider it to be as hazardous as some other foods (hard cheese - cut the mold off, it won't penetrate deeply, but soft cheeses should be discarded unless they were made with mold or some types). However, you don't mention any visible mold, so it probably isn't mold (yes, bacteria can grow on cheese too, including pathogenic types).

Of course, I imagine that swollen zombies (look at the date on the post before yours) have some really nasty germs in them.
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  #22  
Old 11-17-2012, 06:14 PM
Jackmannii Jackmannii is offline
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I am just the least bit suspicious of all ham (the trichinosis thing), but ham that puffs up and looks nasty would get tossed without hesitation.

Last weekend I got a can of anchovies to put a few on my half of the pizza, and when I opened it, oil spurted out and landed several feet away. Not sure what was up with that, but it went in the trash.
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  #23  
Old 09-04-2013, 09:47 PM
JayBishop JayBishop is offline
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Puffed up Chicken Mozza Ravioli - Costco

One half of the package puffed out of nowhere, the other had been eaten some time before. Today's date is 04 SE 13, the BB date is 23 SE 13. It's been in the fridge some 3 weeks, I figure. Yesterday we punctured it, and did a smell test, seemed fine. Today, what the hell, we're hungry, we're chancing it!

The taste was fine, we are now 2 hours after ingestion, and so far so good. Will keep you posted. Mostly vigilant for blurry vision and breathing difficulties associated with botulism, the rest seems innocuous.

This is not ham, so no trichinosis, right?

Wish us luck!

The still breathing, and symptomless, hungry guinea pig team

Last edited by JayBishop; 09-04-2013 at 09:49 PM.. Reason: anachronism
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  #24  
Old 09-04-2013, 09:56 PM
JayBishop JayBishop is offline
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Swelling of factory-sealed food containers : FDA

The presence of microorganisms in processed containers can result from various causes such as post processing entry through flexing seams, out-of- specification seams or seam defects.

Under-processed containers would allow survival of microorganisms which could result in spoilage.

Because there is no way of determining toxin presence non-destructively, all swollen containers must be considered a potential health hazard and sampled.

Typically, any lots with a swell rate in excess of 1% are considered to be adulterated, and subject to seizure or detention regardless of the cause.

http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/Inspections.../ucm106450.htm
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  #25  
Old 09-04-2013, 10:19 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
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Quote:
Yesterday we punctured it, and did a smell test, seemed fine. Today, what the hell, we're hungry, we're chancing it!
There is a significant chance that it's harmless, and I really hope so, but this was a very stupid thing to do. Do you really want to try something that has a few percent chance of killing you?
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  #26  
Old 09-04-2013, 11:49 PM
Gatopescado Gatopescado is offline
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This thread is the Go-To for future Band Names. Like every single string of 2 or more words.

few percent chance of killing you
significant chance that it's harmless
existing gases expand
Swelling of factory-sealed food containers
swollen zombies
survival of microorganisms
determining toxin presence
can of anchovies
Puffed up Chicken
killing that bloated meat


These are the easy ones!
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  #27  
Old 09-05-2013, 02:00 AM
Bridget Burke Bridget Burke is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackmannii View Post
I am just the least bit suspicious of all ham (the trichinosis thing), but ham that puffs up and looks nasty would get tossed without hesitation.

Last weekend I got a can of anchovies to put a few on my half of the pizza, and when I opened it, oil spurted out and landed several feet away. Not sure what was up with that, but it went in the trash.
Heh. A few years ago I was cleaning out the rather capacious closet with shelves I'd used as a pantry. And found a can of anchovies still sealed that had puffed up, just sitting there. I gingerly moved it to the trash. There was no question of eating it--but I wondered what an anchovy bomb would have done to the kitchen. I now store china in the closet & food goes into shallow cabinets with quick turnover.

I'm not worried about trichinosis but past experience has taught me to beware of cold cuts.....
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  #28  
Old 09-05-2013, 02:05 AM
cochrane cochrane is online now
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You know the old Klingon proverb, "Revenge is like serving cold cuts." Or was that an old Jersey proverb?

Last edited by cochrane; 09-05-2013 at 02:06 AM..
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  #29  
Old 09-05-2013, 12:00 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
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Quote:
This thread is the Go-To for future Band Names. Like every single string of 2 or more words.
I now have an urge to form a band, just so I can name it "String of 2 or More Words".
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  #30  
Old 09-05-2013, 12:26 PM
Vinyl Turnip Vinyl Turnip is offline
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"Ham farts?"

-- Todd Margaret
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  #31  
Old 09-05-2013, 12:41 PM
Ludovic Ludovic is offline
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I now have an urge to form a band, just so I can name it "String of 2 or More Words".
My favorite band name in this vein is The Blank Theory, as in people were talking about naming their new band and one of them was like "you know those Theory bands, we could name it something like that, like The Blueberry Theory, The Zombie Theory, you know, The [Blank] Theory" Other Guy: "The Blank Theory! Yeah!"
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  #32  
Old 09-05-2013, 05:34 PM
bob++ bob++ is offline
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any relationship between what you bought at Costco and actual ham, is purely imaginary.
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  #33  
Old 09-06-2013, 11:42 PM
Gatopescado Gatopescado is offline
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Anybody need a drummer? I got a rehersal space and a truck......

Last edited by Gatopescado; 09-06-2013 at 11:43 PM.. Reason: Jeez, this reeks of despiration! Shoulda learned to play guitar...
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  #34  
Old 09-06-2013, 11:58 PM
Oaken Oaken is offline
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WWHD?

What would Homer do?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SorBWowWab4
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  #35  
Old 09-07-2013, 12:07 AM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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It's fascinating that this thread got revived when it did:

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoelUpchurch View Post
The expiration date is 9/13.
It's now September 2013, and so the OP's ham has finally expired.
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  #36  
Old 09-07-2013, 08:47 AM
AaronX AaronX is offline
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Originally Posted by No umlaut for U View Post
The odds of this being botulism are slight since sodium nitrite inhibits Clostridium botulinum. Plus, most strains of this don't grow at refrigerator temps.
That's a relief. The last time I tried to open a bloated can of spam, it smelled worse than sewerage. And did you know bloating = pressure? Like a rotting meat aerosol?
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  #37  
Old 09-07-2013, 08:52 AM
Jackmannii Jackmannii is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Tildrum View Post
It's now September 2013, and so the OP's ham has finally expired.
Has he kept it sitting around all this time, waiting for the swelling to go down?
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  #38  
Old 09-07-2013, 01:13 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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Is anybody else wondering whether we've heard the last of JayBishop?
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  #39  
Old 09-07-2013, 01:45 PM
Spud Spud is offline
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Originally Posted by Jackmannii View Post
Has he kept it sitting around all this time, waiting for the swelling to go down?
If the swelling persists more than two years... see your doctor.
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