Is it safe to eat a green potato?

Avoid throwing food away by carefully inspecting food before purchasing and properly storing it at home.

You just bought a bag of potatoes at the grocery store. When you open it at home, at least half the bag of potatoes are starting to turn green. Are the potatoes safe to eat? Find out the answer to this question and learn how to determine how long to keep food in order to keep them safe. 

The green color of the potato is caused by exposure to light. According to PennState Extension, light causes the potato to produce chlorophyll and also solanine. Solanine has a bitter taste and is an irritant to the digestive system that can cause paralysis in large quantities. Small green spots and sprouts or eyes should be completely trimmed off, however, if it’s more than small spots, throw the potato out. Do not use any green potatoes, trimmed or not, if you are serving children as they have a lower body mass and would be more susceptible to the solanine.  If potatoes have a bitter taste, do not eat them. 

To prevent potatoes from turning green, store them in a cool, dark space with good air circulation. Michigan State University Extension recommends looking carefully before purchasing at the store and avoid purchasing potatoes that already have started to turn green.

For other questions about food safety and storage advice that will help keep food safe after purchase, there is an excellent resource; “The Food Keeper”. This handy reference tool was produced by the Food Marketing Institute, Cornell University and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). It contains useful guidelines about how long you can safely store food. It is also available as a smartphone app for IOS and Android devices. Visit the App Store or Google Play and search for “FoodKeeper Mobile App”. The app keeps this valuable information at your fingertips. 

Once you purchase food in the grocery store, farmers market or other food purchase venues, it’s in your hands to keep your food safe by storing and using it in a timely manner. Always buy food in quantities that your household can use in a reasonable amount of time and rotate the products in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. 

For more information on food safety, visit the MSU Extension website and search under topics for “Food and Health.”

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