What Happens if You Eat Expired Food

It’s really frustrating to throw away food, whether it is last week’s leftovers or that chicken breast you just didn’t get cooked in time.

After all, a lot of time, effort, and money went in to getting that food into your refrigerator; pitching it feels like such a waste.

n these moments we tend to wonder just how accurate expiration dates really are. Is it okay to eat meat a few days past its expiration? What about things like pasta, canned fruit, or vegetables?

There are a lot of questions surrounding expiration dates, and the truth is, they do function as a guideline designed to protect the seller against lawsuits in case you get sick after eating their products.

Expiration dates are set at the earliest point at which the food might go bad, so you can often push it a day or two after. However, you are risking serious discomfort when you do this.

Effects and risks with food poisoning

Food borne illness usually involves a lot of abdominal pain coupled with vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. Sometimes you’ll experience fever and muscle aches.

Immune compromised people such as the very young and old, patients recovering from chemotherapy, and pregnant women are especially at risk of complications, potentially even death, when it comes to food poisoning.

Shelf stable foods that were processed specifically to last longer, like frozen, canned, or dried goods, are most likely okay to eat a few days after the expiration date.

However, following are six foods that you should never eat past their expiration date.
Fresh berries

Fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are full of excellent fiber and antioxidants, but are also prone to a parasite called cyclospora.

It will be obvious when the berries aren’t good anymore, as they get mushy and start to grow mold, but pay attention to the expiration dates anyway.

A great option to avoid wastage is to freeze berries you know you won’t eat in time.

Deli meat

Deli meat from the deli counter spends a lot of time exposed to air before (and after) you buy it, and will only be good for about 3-5 days.

Deli meat that comes sealed in air-tight packaging lasts longer. But don’t trust that the meat is okay until it starts to get slimy and smelly – by then it’s been unhealthy to consume for awhile.

Deli meat can carry Listeria, which is a type of bacteria that grows even in cold temperatures.

Soft cheeses

Soft cheeses are also at risk for Listeria, plus E. coli, because they are made with unpasteurized milk.

With harder cheeses, it may be okay to cut away moldy parts, but with soft cheeses, the toxins have likely penetrated the entire product even if you can’t see spores.

Consume soft cheeses by their expiration, usually within 5-7 days of purchase.

Sprouts
Be careful with sprouts, even if they haven’t expired. They are grown in warm and moist conditions, which makes them prone to bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella.

Immune compromised people should avoid sprouts all together, and healthy people should make sure they either get theirs from a reputable grower or grow their own.

Don’t ever ignore the expiration date, no matter how the sprouts look.

Leafy greens

A lot of the leafy greens we get, in premade salads, bags, or loose, have been prewashed several times. But that doesn’t exempt you from washing them again before eating.

Greens in general have the tendency to carry E. coli and have been handled a lot in processing. Never eat greens once they begin to get slimy, even if that happens before the expiration date.

Fresh meat
As gross as it sounds, most of the fresh raw meat sold in stores is already contaminated with Salmonella, E. coli, or other bacteria.

This is why it’s so important to cook your meat to the appropriate temperature to kill the pathogens.

It’s also why you should never eat meat past its expiration, when the bacteria has the time to multiply exponentially. The biggest offender is ground beef, simply because it is handled a lot during processing.

When it comes to these products, you really need to bite the bullet and throw them away after their expiration date.

Dried spaghetti – okay; stale cereal – if you can stomach it; canned green beans – if you’re desperate. But when it comes to fresh meat, produce, and cheese, err on the side of caution and save your body the agony of food borne illness.


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