I recently bought a cooking paste from a well-known retailer in the UK.

Yesterday I opened the jar. The lid made a popping sound when I opened it (that's good), and the paste is well within its "best before" date. However, the paste itself had a very strong chemical smell, something I would describe as "glue" or perhaps acetone.

The ingredients should be tomato, garlic and other spices.

I used 2 teaspoons in over 2l of stock / tomato juice, and the strong smell went away.

Is the paste safe to use?

  • I think it would be impossible to answer your question. Smell is a poor indicator of food safety. There are foods that are unsafe long before you smell the problem, and smells that are harmless and "blow off" after a period. Maybe contact the producer of the cooking paste?
    – moscafj
    Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 11:37

1 Answer 1


Is the paste safe to use?

It's hard to say with any certainty -- we can't smell the paste, you haven't said specifically what the paste is (product name, brand, etc.), and there can be a lot of variation in how different people perceive the same odor. Asking for an opinion from one or more people around you could help.

That said, you're the one who is considering eating the product in question, so if it smells bad or unappetizing to you, toss it. In general, if there's a question about the safety of a food, it's better to be safe than sorry. And even if the food in question is safe, there's no reason to use a product that you're pretty sure you won't enjoy.

Keep in mind that there are some strong odors that are less than lovely by themselves, but which are still delicious in small amounts or when mixed with other ingredients. Onion and garlic can fall into that category, and fish sauce isn't great either.

You could call the manufacturer and see what they say about it -- they might send you a coupon for a new jar if you're willing to give the product another try. Or you could take it back to the store and ask for a refund or exchange.

Trust your instinct -- the nose knows.

  • Thanks. I ended up chucking out the paste and I will probably discard the food I made with it too
    – mkorman
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 9:24

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