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What makes aluminum foil pit or disintegrate?

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Sometimes when foods are stored in aluminum foil, or when foil is used to cover a pan of food, the foil will develop holes and look like it is being eaten away. Two things may be the cause. 1) When aluminum and a dissimilar metal are in contact in the presence of moisture, an electrolytic reaction may occur causing a breakdown of the aluminum. To prevent this reaction, use plastic wrap to cover metal containers (silver, stainless steel, or iron used to store food. 2) If the aluminum foil was not used with a dissimilar metal container, the reaction was probably a chemical one. It is possible for heavy concentrations of salt, vinegar or some other acidic compound, or highly spiced foods to cause the foil to disintegrate. The product of either of these reactions is an aluminum salt. It does not harm the food but you will want to scrape any deposit off the food as it may impart an undesired flavor and color.

PREPARED BY: Angela M. Fraser, Ph.D., Associate Professor/Food Safety Specialist, and Carolyn J. Lackey, Ph.D., R.D., L.D.N., Professor/Food and Nutrition Specialist, North Carolina State University (August 2004)

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