I noticed that many packages of chicken or ground turkey are swollen in the store and there is no huge fuss made over them. I know modified atmosphere packaging could cause this but this article and this one I read say that this can happen but then revert to the better safe than sorry line. I did half ask this before but the answer was implying that this was not safe. If it was not safe why aren't there huge recalls every time this happens? Seems that people just eat it anyway?

I chose a package of ground turkey (best before a week from now) that was not swollen but as soon as I got it home (60-90 minutes in cool weather) it was a tiny bit swollen so I punctured the side so it wouldn't swell any more.

What do people do when all the packages of meat being sold are swollen? I think it's fine but we instinctively avoid them because other swollen packages are of course dangerous.

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    "it was a tiny bit swollen so I punctured the side so it wouldn't swell any more" – this suggests you might have cause and effect the wrong way round. A swollen package is a sign (potentially) of a problem, it is not the problem itself. Puncturing the package stops the swelling, but does nothing about whether or not there is underlying spoilage (and as @Tetsujin indicates, it both removes an indicator of further spoilage and loses the protective atmosphere from the original packaging).
    – dbmag9
    Jan 16, 2023 at 14:52
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    I’ve seen some packages where all of the packs in the shop are swollen, and I assume that’s something about the packaging. When only one or two are swollen, I view that as a sign that something is causing gas inside the package, and warn the staff about it. They’ve always removed those packages. (Even within the ‘use by date’, someone might have picked it up, wandered the store with it for an hour then put it back so it’s not been chilled the whole time, or it got contaminated somehow)
    – Joe
    Jan 16, 2023 at 15:03
  • This is most likely just physics (thermal expansion of the gas in the package). It doesn't need much time for noticeable changes to happen. Take an empty, thin/soft plastic bottle, close it tight while indoors, and put it outside while it's cold. Very soon, you'll see the sides start to bow in. Over here, it took only about a minute with a 1 liter bottle, and it's only about +5 degrees Celsius. Same with your meat package, except in the opposite direction, since it started cold and got warmer.
    – Dan Mašek
    Jan 16, 2023 at 17:37
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    It may be also worthy to note that for people who live in high altitudes, this phenomenon can be normal, as packaging are often made at lower altitudes, so the packaging tend to be more swollen up there due to difference of athmospheric pressure
    – Kaddath
    Jan 16, 2023 at 17:40

1 Answer 1


Now you've punctured it you don't have a week. It was packaged in a protective atmosphere, & you've broken the seal… not to mention, of course, that if it was continuing to increase in pressure, a reasonably sure sign of spoilage, you've now discarded that tell-tale.

The reason there aren't huge recalls is, as you might guess, this is no issue at all. If there's a slight pressure inside & you allow the pack to warm up, it will expand more. Once you get it back in the fridge or better still meat drawer, it will reduce again.
If you have a whole shelf of similar product in the supermarket, you can usually tell which batch is which, because a single batch will tend to have a similar pressure, positive or negative. This isn't an absolute, but it is a tendency.

It is possible for meat to spoil inside these packs; if they weren't kept refrigerated properly. This would tend towards further pressure increase as you kept it, even in the fridge. In a supermarket, again this would tend to be by batch.

You have to use practise & judgement to make the call; but try not to be wasteful by assuming everything over-pressure must be 'off'. It usually isn't.

Eat your turkey in the next couple of days, though. Your best before date is now no longer relevant.

After googling for some examples, I'd be happy with this pack

enter image description here

but suspicious about this [in fact I wouldn't have bought it]

enter image description here

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    I would use the 24 hours-rule for fresh raw ground meat, apart from that, I agree.
    – Stephie
    Jan 16, 2023 at 13:05
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    Air pressure changes can also have an effect here - maybe the supermarket is at sea-level, but you live at 1000 ft (300 m) - the packet will expand.
    – bob1
    Jan 17, 2023 at 0:40

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