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I've gotten some tips from other questions, e.g. corpses rot very quickly. However, I have also often found that rations and other comestibles in my inventory turn out to be rotten, and occasionally have made me quite sick.

Is there any way to determine if a given food item is rotten?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Cursed non-corpse food items, with the exception of the fortune cookie, are always rotten when you eat them. So the first course of action tends to be testing to see if it is cursed or not. See the top of Kaestur's answer to this question for details on that, but the simplest method is to drop it on the ground and see if your pet will walk on it.

Past that, it's primarily a game of luck. As with corpses, there is no visual indication of whether food is rotten. But unlike the deadly corpses, there is actually a check made when you eat the food. It is only made after it has been a certain number of turns since the generation of the item. So two rations of equal age can have different results when eaten.

Certain foods are more likely to rot than others. Eggs rot the fastest, to my knowledge. Fruit tends to rot earlier and more often than rations, although they are quite unfilling. The corpses of Lizards and Lichens never rot. To memory, lembas wafers don't rot over time, but if they do then they have a significantly lower chance of being rotten when eaten (and not cursed).

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It should be noted that cursed fortune cookies are not always rotten, nor are cursed corpses (which do, however, age faster.) –  Wooble Nov 15 '10 at 18:40
    
Are you sure about Lembas? I'm pretty sure I've gotten the rotten food message upon eating it. –  sjohnston Nov 15 '10 at 18:51
    
@sjohnston To my recollection and experiences, they don't rot. I could be wrong, but as an alternative point, was it a cursed wafer? –  Grace Note Nov 15 '10 at 18:53
    
I do not believe so. It was in my starting inventory (due to being an Elf Ranger). –  sjohnston Nov 15 '10 at 19:10
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The problem with getting you pet to determine cursed food is if it is not cursed, often the pet will eat it. –  Mark Hurd May 29 '11 at 14:43
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