Can food that's been frozen too long make you sick?

I was pondering this as I was eating my 8 month old Lean Cuisine Swedish Meatball Entree at lunch today. I know that if you put, say, a beef roast in the freezer for too long, it’ll get dried out and yucky. Same with frozen vegetables, Fudgecicles, Microwave Corn Dogs, and other such things. The question is, though, that besides tasting like crap, can it actually hurt you? If I go carve a steak off of that Mammoth they found frozen up in Greenland (or wherever they found it, I don’t remember) and throw it on the grill, will it kill me?

if the food was not decayed before it was frozen (read: frozen mammoth), I think you could scarf freezer burn with impunity.

I believe there are also grades of “frozen” and food stored at -35F will last almost indefinitely while at 0F it will last (say) a month.

Oooh. That’s pretty interesting. Can I sit back and chuckle over the concept of my housemate barfing up a lung after eating that striper he caught in 1996 and finally decides to put on the grill next summer?

I don’t know the answer, but I do recall a magazine article in recent years (probably National Geographic) that detailed the finding of the encampment in Antarctica of some doomed expedition from the early part of the last century. They described the canned goods they found as “still edible,” but I don’t think they actually tested the statement.

I’ve got some Ling and Kingfish in my freezer that I caught in 1989. They were cleaned and frozen in blocks of ice that day. Whad’ya think? Invite an expendable over for dinner?

Really. Why would any decay or bacterial colonization have occurred if they’ve been completely cut off from contact with air for that entire period? Anaerobic bacteria?

FWIW, freezing can destroy vitamins in food, so long-frozen food would be less nutritious than fresh food.


Yes, but can it possibly make up for the freezer space that is denied to food that would actually be eaten because some yahoo that I live with can’t afford to stuff his trophies?

I know that I’ve read that in the past, when people have found those frozen mammoths, they sometimes cut them up and cook them and eat them, and apparently suffer no ill effects, but I’m sorry, I don’t have a cite for it off-hand.

I do know that the only reason you shouldn’t eat freezer-burned food is because it tastes awful, not because it will make you sick. AFAIK, it’s perfectly safe to eat. The food-borne illness-causing bacteria can’t survive in a freezer, or at least, they can’t multiply and spread their toxins, which is what actually makes you sick.

What I wanna know is, how you managed to hang onto a Lean Cuisine for 8 months. In my freezer, Lean Cuisines have a life expectancy of about 10 minutes, or “until we get all the groceries put away”. Must’ve fallen down into the bottom, under the popsicles, huh?

Did you look at the info on the box of Lean Cuisine Swedish Meatball Entree?

>> FWIW, freezing can destroy vitamins in food, so long-frozen food would be less nutritious than fresh food

Snaf, can you back that up? I have heard precisely the contrary. Unless you eat the produce right off the plant, it begins to decay immediately and when you buy it after several days it is not as fresh as if it had been frozen within a few hours of being picked.

In any case, I doubt the length of time it was frozen would have much effect on the vitamins. If vitamin pills have a shelf life of many months at room temperature I doubt they would decay faster if frozen.

So my question to you is": Where did you get that “freezing can destroy vitamins in food”?

Urg. I actually don’t like 'em all that much. They’re the best of the “healthy” frozen dinners, and I had bought a bunch and threw 'em in the freezer at work in case I needed an emergency lunch. I didn’t have any emergencies for 8 months, thus the longevity.

You actually like those things? I personally have trouble keeping stuff like frozen corn dogs and cheesecake in the freezer. The Lean Cuisine’s could live long enough to procreate, if they had that ability.

My understanding is that freezing doesn’t kill the little buggers, but merely slows the rate of growth of harmful organisms to a negligible level. So, as stated above, if it wasn’t rotten beforehand it won’t be rotten after being frozen a long time.

But that’s why you’re not supposed to re-freeze food that you’ve thawed. While thawing, the bacteria start growing again and after a few cycles of freezing and thawing they’ve had time to reach harmful levels. That’s also why you’re not supposed to thaw things (like turkeys) at room temperature, or in tepid water. The bacteria (primarily on the surface) start to multiply while the interior remains frozen.

Foods that go directly from the freezer to the microwave don’t have this problem, of course.

As for freezer duration, frozen dinners tend to go quickly at my house because they are 1) easy to heat and 2) brightly packaged. The cooking impaired people who live with me can’t find things that are on the lower shelves of the refrigerator or anything on the back of a shelf. Frozen dinners are at eye level (the freezer is on the top of our fridge) and they have that, ahem, appetizing photograph on the front of the box. If the directions are printed large enough they can usually get them to serving temperature without help. God forbid they should look in a cupboard.