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This morning, I found some sausages in the fridge that had been there all week. The top of the sausage (that is, the surface of the skin facing upwards) had turned brown. I initially thought that if I just fried them long enough, this would be fine; however, while frying I did a quick search on the web, got spooked and threw them away.

My question is: what causes this discolouration and, have I needlessly thrown three very tasty looking sausages in the bin?

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    Whenever you are faced with a situation like this, ask yourself "Am I willing to spend 3 to 5 days in the bathroom feeling absolutely terrible for the sake of eating <suspect foodstuff>?" If the answer is yes, go ahead and eat. Otherwise, throw it out and order a pizza. – ElendilTheTall Apr 11 '15 at 21:25
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    What type of sausage? A fair bit of meat is colored reddish to look more "natural" but blood-less meat is not red (and blood darkens quickly anyways). You'll often see steak for example start to look more brown as the coloring fades before the meat has actually gone bad. – Matthew Read Apr 12 '15 at 20:13
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My question is: what causes this discolouration

Many meats are dyed to make them look fresher. They add red, cause meat is red right? Well no. Most meat will "brown" or "gray" as it is exposed to the air and the blood dries up (or drains out). This is not, in any way, a sign of bad meat. In fact it "may" be a sign of good, natural meat.

A YouTube Video that explains it

and, have I needlessly thrown three very tasty looking sausages in the bin?

Yes, probably.

Important note

When in doubt throw it out. A week in the fridge (not freezer) is border line for me. I would have probably cooked it, but I wouldn't fault someone else for not cooking it.

You can usually look for smell or slime to tell if meat is bad.

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    And don't freak out when you get home, and find that the ground meat in the package is almost purple (but a bright, even purple, not a dull, splotchy purple). It means that the meat was just ground, and hasn't had enough time for the color changes to start – Joe Mar 28 '17 at 16:43
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The one on top was probably exposed to air and its surface dried out which darkened it.

It's always better to be safe than sorry. I am a little more edgy and eat things others don't, but I have my limits of acceptable also. I wouldn't eat something a week old unless I was sure it was packed and stored properly.

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The discoloring isn't a problem: it's just the meat reacting with oxygen in the air. The same thing would happen, only more slowly, if you'd frozen the sausages.

The problem is possible bacterial growth. By the time the bacteria levels become high enough to be visible, it's far past the point where the bacteria are dangerous. Further, many bacterial excrete toxic substances that aren't inactivated by cooking. This is why you should usually go with expiration dates rather than "what it looks like" to determine if food is safe to eat. (There are some exceptions, where either spoilage is visible or it simply doesn't spoil at all, but sausage isn't one of them.)

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