Rotting food usually heads straight for the garbage. Full of moulds and fungi, rotten food is dangerous to eat but interesting to study. Food can be a fascinating topic for science projects, especially when you explore and observe rotting food. Be careful not to ingest, handle or inhale the foods in these experiments; moulds and fungi can make you extremely sick.
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One of the simplest ways to observe rotting food scientifically is with a mouldy bread experiment. For this project, you will need a loaf of bread, plastic sandwich bags, food storage containers and a camera. Leave a slice of bread on your kitchen counter until it moulds. Record the temperature of your house and the number of days the bread took to mould. Place slices of bread in different receptacles: Tupperware containers, sandwich bags or the refrigerator. Let the bread mould and record your findings. Using fresh bread slices, repeat the experiment but change the temperature or put the bread outside. Record your findings. Compare your results, keeping the following questions in mind: Does the method of storage affect the moulding time? Does the temperature at which the bread was stored make a difference? Is sunlight a factor in your experiment? To make a display for this project, take photos of your bread in different phases of rotting and glue them to a poster board with descriptions of your experiments.
When you slice an apple for your lunch, it turns brown in only a few hours. In this experiment, you will explore how different household items can prevent food (specifically apple slices) from rotting. You will need an apple sliced into six equal pieces, six clear jars, salt, sugar, antibacterial hand gel, vinegar, water, a permanent marker, paper plates, a sharp knife and disposable forks (so you won't touch the rotting apples). Label five of the jars with the name of a preservative: Salt, sugar, antibacterial gel, vinegar and water. Leave one jar label blank for your control experiment. Place one apple slice in each jar. Cover each apple slice completely using the preservatives that coincide with each label, leaving the apple in the control jar uncovered. Store the jars in a cool, dry place for one week, checking on them or taking photos periodically. Which of the preservatives worked the best? Which was the worst? How did these preservatives compare to your control apple? Discuss your findings and why you think each preservative worked the way it did.
Making your own mould terrarium is an effective way to watch mould grow, and a good project for a show-and-tell display. You will need a clear disposable container with a lid, tape, water and leftover food (vegetables, fruits or breads work best). Do not put meat or fish products in your terrarium; the smell will be unpleasant and overpowering in a few days. Choose three pieces of food you want to observe and dip each in water. Arrange each piece in the plastic container with space between them. Put the lid on the container and seal the edges shut with tape. Let the container sit for two weeks, observing the contents daily. Observe the terrarium, concentrating on the following questions: Which food moulded first? Are the moulds on each food different? Did everything in the terrarium rot?
Fast Food vs. Home-Cooked Food
It's been said that fast-food meals never go bad because their salt and preservative content keeps them from rotting. Check the accuracy of this statement with the following experiment. You will need a fast food hamburger, a homemade hamburger and two plastic sandwich bags. Make sure your burgers have the same toppings and condiments on them. Put each burger in a sandwich bag and leave them in a cool, dry place for a week. Observe and record your findings. Is the fast-food burger moulding? Is the homemade burger moulding more, or more quickly? Which part of the hamburgers rotted first?
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