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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 October, 2003, 17:52 GMT 18:52 UK
Vintage chutney passes taste test
Scientists tested the chutney's acidity and water levels
Scientists testing a vintage jar of chutney made 34 years ago have concluded it is still edible.

The jar of curried rhubarb and apple pickle was made by Joy Tomkins, of Downham Market, Norfolk, in 1969 during a cookery course.

The 73-year-old rediscovered two jars of the vintage chutney at the back of a kitchen cupboard and took a sample along to the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) to find out if it was still edible.

The pickle was tested by researchers on Thursday who described it as having "a very strong flavour" but was safe to eat.

And although Mrs Tomkins said she was looking forward to getting her chutney back from the laboratories, scientists advised people not to start eating ancient food they find at the back of their cupboards.

Very strong flavour

RSC spokesman Brian Emsley said his organisation asked the Institute of Food Research to conduct the tests after being contacted by the grandmother of four.

He said: "A colleague actually tried the chutney, he said it was OK, but had a very strong flavour.

"It just shows something can last almost 35 years in the back of a cupboard, but I wouldn't recommend people start sticking spoons into 50-year-old preserves."

Mrs Tomkins made the long-lasting chutney at a cookery class in the Domestic Economy Department of Oaklands College, St Albans, Hertfordshire.

Acidity prevented bacteria

As it has been declared safe Mrs Tomkins said she planned to eat some of the chutney but had other plans for the rest.

"I'm planning to put some in the freezer to see how long it will last," she said.

Scientists tested the chutney's acidity and water levels to find out if it was safe for consumption.

Mr Emsley added: "Basically, because it's got a very high acidity level this wasn't the right environment for any bacteria to grow.

"She must have done the process very well, boiling the jar and putting the wax seal on. She did everything correctly up to WI standards."

He said the RSC funded the experiments through a budget which is dedicated to communicating science to a wider audience.

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