Can Bad Caviar Make You Sick?

Caviar is one of life’s great pleasures, but there are a few cases where you’d be better off tossing the tin of caviar instead of consuming it. Today, we’re going to take a look at whether or not eating bad caviar can make you sick.

Bad caviar can indeed make you sick. Caviar can go bad by being left out for too long or poorly stored, being harvested improperly or being packaged improperly.

Can Bad Caviar Make You Sick?

Bear with us if you’re not satisfied with that answer because we’re going to discuss some of the ways that caviar can go bad. After that, we’ll discuss what this bad caviar can do to your digestive system.

Getting Sick Because of Bad Caviar

When you hear the term “bad caviar,” you’re probably thinking of caviar that has been left out for too long and has gone bad.

However, there are a few other reasons why caviar may not be fit for consumption, and all of these reasons won’t end up making you sick, but they may lessen your enjoyment of caviar.

We’re going to take a look at the following factors that can make caviar go bad:

  • Being left out for too long or poorly stored
  • Being harvested improperly
  • Being packaged improperly

Improperly Harvested Caviar

If caviar is not harvested the right way, it may have been ovulated or even fertilized. We have a complete guide on fertilized caviar and why it’s improperly harvested, but we’re just going to give you a short summary in today’s article.

Fertilized and ovulated caviar is caviar that has been expelled naturally (or spawned) by a fish. Normally, caviar needs to be cut out of a sturgeon before it is expelled, as the ovulation process weakens the external membrane of the caviar, ruining its natural texture.

If you eat caviar that has been poorly harvested, you likely won’t enjoy the experience because of the mushy texture of the eggs, but it won’t end up doing anything bad to your system unless it’s also been left out for too long.

Poor Storage

If caviar isn’t stored properly, then it can go bad, just like any other kind of animal product. Unlike chicken eggs, caviar doesn’t have a protective membrane that allows it to be left out of the refrigerator.

In most cases, you’ll want to ensure that you keep your caviar in the coldest part of your refrigerator, which is typically the meat shelf or drawer at the bottom. There are some cases in which you can store caviar outside of the refrigerator, but this is only if it is pasteurized and the tin is unopened.

It isn’t recommended to store caviar after it has been opened, but if you must, you’ll want to cover the tin in plastic wrap and ensure that you only keep it for one or two days. This will degrade the flavor and texture of your caviar, but it will not make it harmful to you.

If caviar has been stored badly, it can potentially result in food poisoning. In most cases, food poisoning from eating bad caviar will result in diarrhea or vomiting, but it shouldn’t do anything too bad to your system as long as the caviar was eaten within a reasonable timeframe.

Caviar that has gotten rotten enough to seriously harm you will likely be inedible in the first place, and you’ll probably spit it out before you can consume a harmful amount of it.

That being said, make sure that you store your caviar properly to avoid this issue. To ensure that your caviar was handled properly if it was shipped to you, you’ll want to smell it to ensure that it hasn’t gone bad in the shipping process.

Caviar may be frozen to stop it from going bad, but this has a few downsides, including diminishing the caviar’s flavor and softening the texture.

Improper Packaging

When caviar is packaged, it must be stored with plenty of salt to ensure that certain bacteria don’t begin developing. The most lethal of these is the Clostridium botulinum bacteria that can lead to botulism.

You should always investigate your caviar tins to ensure that they haven’t been compromised before they got to you. This is probably the sickest you can get from caviar, as some of the effects of botulism include facial paralysis that can spread to the rest of your body. 

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Storing Your Caviar

Before storing your caviar, always check the “best by” date that has been printed on the can. This will let you know how long you can keep it in the proper conditions as long as the tin remains unopened.

You’ll want to keep your caviar at temperatures between 28 and 30 degrees F, which is often a lower temperature than most refrigerators are capable of reaching. If your fridge is too hot to properly store caviar, store it in a bowl of ice that will help lower the temperature further.

You should also make sure that your caviar tin is vacuum sealed (or as close to it as possible) and the tin should be stored on an even surface with the caviar patted down so that it maximizes its contact with the oils in the tin.

What is Pasteurization?

Pasteurization is a process in which food is exposed to heat at around 200 degrees F so that the risk of disease and contamination can be reduced. This process kills off any ambient bacteria in the caviar and ensures that it can be stored outside of the refrigerator nearly indefinitely, making it more convenient to ship and store.

Keep in mind that pasteurized caviar tends to have a higher salt content than the non-pasteurized variety, so the taste may be a little compromised relative to the alternative. Pasteurization tends to reduce caviar’s value, and true connoisseurs frown upon the process, stating that it ruins the caviar.