Is marinade safe to eat? (7 safety tips)
In this article, we will discuss whether eating marinade is safe, what are the risks of eating marinade and how to safely make and consume a marinade.
A marinade can be made of many different ingredients and is usually used as a flavouring and tenderising agent in meats. However, as with any food product, it can be a risk when not properly handled or stored.
Is marinade safe to eat?
Yes, marinade is safe to eat. A marinade is a sauce used to soften and increase the safety and shelf life of meat products, including fish, beef, pork and poultry (1, 2). The composition of marinade sauces varies and can include salts, acids and spices.
A marinade sauce can be consumed as a salad sauce and is safe when it has been prepared under safe conditions and does not show any signs of spoilage. A cooked marinade is safe to eat unless there are signs of spoilage (4).
However, if the marinade sauce has been used to marinate the meat, it is no longer safe to eat uncooked. It should be either cooked with the meat or boiled to be safely consumed (3, 4).
Is uncooked marinade safe to eat?
Yes, uncooked marinade is safe to eat, unless it has signs of spoilage or if it has been previously used to marinate a meat product (1, 2, 3, 4). In this way, recycling marinade sauces is not recommended (1).
A fresh-made marinade should be safe to eat when properly prepared, that is when prepared under safe hygienic conditions following good handling and cooking practices.
What makes a marinade unsafe?
Improper handling, the use of unfresh or contaminated ingredients and especially the contact with uncooked meat make a marinade unsafe to eat.
According to studies, unhygienic conditions and cross-contamination are important risk factors to cause food contamination and lead to foodborne illnesses (3).
A study showed that, while fresh marinades were free of enterobacteria, spent marinade sauces had high microbial contamination (1). Fresh marinades were not free from bacteria, however, their bacterial load were not considered unsafe.
What are the possible risks of eating a marinade?
The risks of eating a marinade are possible microbial contamination. Microbial contamination can occur due to contaminated ingredients and during the preparation of the marinade sauce, by insufficient hygiene of the handler (3).
Improper hygienic conditions of the cooking place or cooking utensils can also lead to contamination of the marinade sauce. Microorganisms may develop in the marinade at different rates, depending on its composition and storage condition (1, 3, 5).
The overgrowth of microorganisms in the marinade sauce causes spoilage, and alteration of the flavour and odour and can lead to foodborne diseases when consumed (2, 4, 5).
Can a marinade go bad?
Yes, a marinade can go bad. Although most of the marinades are made with acids and ingredients that contain compounds that are naturally antioxidants and antimicrobial, such as essential oils and phenolics, marinades can go bad (1, 2, 5).
Many microorganisms can develop under acidic conditions, including yeasts, lactic acid bacteria, and many pathogenic bacteria. During storage, slight changes occur in the medium as a result of chemical reactions, favouring their development.
Bacteria are present in the form of spores and may become viable and develop when the conditions are favoured, such as by the increase of the pH during storage (5).
How to know if the marinade is spoiled?
A spoiled marinade sauce can be identified by possible alterations in the colour, odour and flavour of the marinade (2, 4).
Off-odours and off-flavours such as putrid, fermented, “cheesy” or “buttery” may indicate spoilage, the presence of turbidity, production of gas and mould growth are also possible signs of spoilage (1, 3, 5).
How to safely consume a marinade?
To safely consume a marinade, consider these safety tips (1, 2, 3, 6):
- Choose fresh ingredients free from signs of spoilage
- Wash your hands, and cutting utensils and use a clean cooking space
- Wash the fresh ingredients and peel and cut them if necessary, avoiding handling other food items to reduce the risks of cross-contamination
- Prepare the marinade and keep it refrigerated in an airtight container in the refrigerator till use
- Do not reuse a used marinade, unless you boil the used marinade first
- Do not store a used marinade, unless you boil the used marinade first
- Do not consume a marinade with signs of spoilage
In this article, we discussed the safety of eating a marinade, what are the risks of eating a marinade, how to know if a marinade is spoiled and how to safely consume a marinade.
Marinades can be easily prepared by blending garlic, onions, salt, oil, vinegar, chilli and other spices.
In my experience of baking whole chicken, marinating the chicken overnight has a softening effect on the meat, in addition to giving it a unique flavour.
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Jung Y, Rupert CL, Chapman B, Fett AC, Luchansky JB. Assessment of microbiological safety and quality of marinades used to treat beef and that were collected over a 12-month period from specialty retailers near Raleigh, North Carolina. Journal of food protection. 2018 Mar 1;81(3):490-6.
Schönborn W, Kinkel RJ, Hafferl W. Investigations on Pasteurization of Cold Marinades by 60 Co Gamma Rays. InFood Irradiation. Proceedings of the International Symposium on Food Irradiation 1966.
Kennedy J, Nolan A, Gibney S, O’brien S, McMahon MA, McKenzie K, Healy B, McDowell D, Fanning S, Wall PG. Deteminants of cross‐contamination during home food preparation. British food journal. 2011 Feb 15;113(2):280-97.
Rawat S. Food Spoilage: Microorganisms and their prevention. Asian journal of plant science and Research. 2015;5(4):47-56.
Sperber WH. Introduction to the microbiological spoilage of foods and beverages. Compendium of the microbiological spoilage of foods and beverages. 2009:1-40.
Usda.gov. [cited 2023 Oct 25]. Available from: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/grilling-and-food-safety