Can expired food kill you?

In this article, we will answer the following question: Can expired food kill you? We talk about whether it is dangerous to eat expired food or not. 

Can expired food kill you?

No, eating expired food cannot kill you, and it is not dangerous. For products that have it, the “best before date” indicates that the manufacturer promises that the product maintains the same properties as when it left the place of production until that day.

In other words, the best before date indicates when the nutritional properties and characteristics such as taste, texture, smell, and appearance will remain intact. But if it is eaten after this date, in no case does it lead to health problems.

Foods usually have a preferred consumption date and an expiration date, although some do not have an expiration date. That means that it will never pose a risk to health, it will simply lose its properties over time.

Therefore, the preferred consumption date, even though it is still determined by microorganisms based on the conditions and factors that we have seen before, the preferred consumption date is not marked by the development of pathogens. That is, even if the date is exceeded, there is no risk of food poisoning.

As a general rule, products with little available water, salty or that have undergone other chemical or thermal processes and acids, usually have a best before date, and the expiration date is either very far or not even there.

Flour, nuts, chocolate bars, cookies, etc., have very little water available for microorganisms, so it is very difficult for pathogens to grow in the quantities necessary to harm us. These products have a preferred consumption date that, once exceeded, it is possible to perceive changes in taste, texture (harden or soften), smell … But they do not cause health problems.

Jam, for example, is a very acidic product with a shelf life of even years. But it is that if it is consumed after what marks the date of preferential consumption, perhaps there are changes in the flavor, but years may pass that it will continue without causing problems. 

Canned foods and butter also tend to have a preferred consumption date, although, with canned foods, especially homemade ones, you have to be careful and respect the hygienic production conditions.

Similarly, yogurts usually have a best before date. And it is that in addition to being acidic, the lactobacilli themselves present in them, which are bacteria, compete against the possible pathogens that arrive. That is, they defend their “home”. Therefore, even though we may notice changes in acidity, it will not harm us.

Even milk, until the moment it is opened, has a best before date. And it is that the milk that is marketed goes through a pasteurization process, which consists of subjecting them to high temperatures to kill the possible pathogens that are inside. Of course, once open we already give the option to enter again, so then there is an expiration date.

Finally, sausages also usually have a best before date. And is that the processes of salting, smoking, curing and other techniques usually prevent pathogenic microorganisms from growing. The exception is fresh sausages such as ham, which are not so “protected” and do have an expiration date.

Eating something after its expiration date: is it dangerous?

Not necessarily, but it can be. The expiration date marks the limit within which the company that has made the product can ensure that it will not represent any health hazard. After that time, there is no guarantee that it will be safe to eat.

But this does not mean that a day after exceeding the expiration date will make us sick. What she means is that from then on, the longer the time that passes, the more likely it is that dangerous bacteria will start to grow in the food.

Therefore, eating foods that have passed their expiration date can represent a health risk: gastroenteritis, salmonellosis, listeriosis, brucellosis … There are many diseases that are transmitted by eating bad food.

In this case, foods with an expiration date are those that, unlike those with a preferred consumption date, do meet the conditions to allow the rapid and abundant growth of pathogens in sufficient quantities to cause intoxication. They have water available, they have no salt, they are not acidic …

Therefore, the majority of fresh products and especially those of animal origin are those that, once expired, can bring more health problems. The best way to detect that they can be dangerous is because, in most cases, we see that the product has altered the properties of taste, texture, smell, appearance, etc.

Meat, fish, milk once opened, eggs, fruits, and vegetables in poor condition, etc., are usually foods that have an important expiration date to respect. And the best way to prevent food poisoning is by respecting the expiration dates, monitoring personal hygiene and kitchen utensils, and following the storage instructions for each product.

The bottom line

In this article, we answered the following question: Can expired food kill you? We talked about whether it is dangerous to eat expired food or not. 

In conclusion, eating food after it expires is not dangerous, but it can be. The expiration date marks the limit within which the company that has made the product can ensure that it will not represent any health hazard. After that time, there is no guarantee that it will be safe to eat.

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know!

References

Carrillo Inungaray, M.L., Reyes Munguía, A. (2013) “Useful life of food”. Ibero-American Journal of Biological and Agricultural Sciences, 2 (3)

Bosch Collet, J., Castell Garralda, V., Farré Rovira, R. et al (2018) “Extension of the date of food consumption. Criteria for safe and satisfactory use ”. Catalan Agency for Food Safety.

Soethoudt, J.M., Van der Sluis, A.A., Waarts, Y., Tromp, S. (2013) “Expiry Dates: a Waste of Time?”. Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research.

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Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.

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