Can old pasta sauce make you sick?

In this article, we will answer the following question: Can old pasta sauce make you sick? We will talk about the proper way of storing pasta sauce and what can happen if you eat old pasta sauce.

Can old pasta sauce make you sick?

Old pasta sauce can make you sick if it is moldy or has not been stored properly and has developed bacteria harmful to the human body. The important thing is never to wait more than two or three days to consume the sauce, and of course, taste it before using it to season pasta.

Clostridium perfringens is a Gram-positive, spore-forming bacterium which causes illness in humans through the production of toxins. In England, it is estimated that 8–13% of gastrointestinal foodborne outbreaks are associated with C. perfringens (2).

Generally, pasta sauces kept in a jar can stay in the pantry even for up to 1 year and a half (unopened), and in the refrigerator no more than 4 days (opened). It can also be frozen for two months. If the sauce is made from tomatoes without frying, it should not be more than a couple of months in the pantry (unopened). Homemade sauces are safe for 6-12 months (4).

Unopened canned food are safe, because proper commercial canning, owing to the controlled temperature and processing time, renders food commercially sterile (free of viable microorganisms, including those of public health significance such as spores of C. botulinum, capable of reproducing under normal non-refrigerated conditions during storage and transport). A commercial canning process uses a closed vessel (known as a retort) to heat a product under pressure, conferring stability and safety to canned product, such as sauces. However, insufficient sterilization processes may lead to foodborne illness (1).

In the case of opened bottles or leftovers, inadequate practices in handling food, such as lapses in food safety, including lapses in temperature control during cooking and hot holding, likely cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods and the incorrect reuse of leftovers can also lead to illness (2).

As almost always, common sense gives us the solution when it comes to knowing whether to store sauces in the refrigerator or kitchen cabinets. Those with a high salt concentration are fermented, are very vinegary, and can be kept out of the fridge. Although experts warn, you have to be careful if you opt for healthy ones with less salt content.

Pasta sauces with perishable ingredients, such as eggs, dairy, fruits, and vegetables, are better cold and have a shorter shelf life. In any case, it must be borne in mind that no matter how well preserved they are, the sauces are not eternal, and it is advisable from time to time to review and discard those that have been left behind, either in the refrigerator or in the pantry (4,5).

As a general rule, practically none of the sauces that are purchased prepackaged require a refrigerator before opening. But when in doubt, you just have to look at where they were in the store and do the same. It is also a good idea to check if the label advises something in this regard (4).

When it comes to condiments made from perishable foods, such as fruits, eggs, or milk, they have to be kept cold once opened but also their duration, which is usually shorter, must also be taken into account (5).

If a mayonnaise or a tartar sauce is homemade, with pasteurized eggs or egg products, keep it refrigerated and use it within four days. . 

Something that should never be done is to spread anything that will accompany the sauce directly on the pot or put the cutlery that is being used because they could contaminate the sauces. Nor, of course, add the sauce that has not been used and that has been in contact with other foods. 

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Can sauces make you sick?

Tomato pasta sauce, even if it is homemade, produces a decrease in the valve to defend the esophagus so that gastric things do not rise. Due to the tomato concentration it reduces the pressure of the valve and allows reflux and that the esophagus burns. According to studies, organic acids (citric and malic acids) in the tomato sauce are the most potent triggers of acid reflux in prone individuals and higher tomato consumers (6).

It is not a myth, it is a reality if the person already has reflux, one does not recommend eating spaghetti in sauce, lasagna, or the Aztec soup.

Worcestershire sauce is also special to produce inflammatory problems, due to its acidity it can trigger a kind of erosions, which are wounds in the stomach. The products it contains irritate the stomach lining, such as garlic, it is like chili and burns the wall. If you eat a lot of garlic, it will also affect and cause wounds in what is called erosive gastritis. Chili may have clinically important effects on the gastric mucosa of man, causing gastric erosion, gastric ulcer, and hematemesis and melena (3). Worcestershire sauce also may be toxic to the kidneys, and cause, among other things, the formation of renal stones (7).

In the mayonnaise, it does not damage the stomach wall, but it does in the emptying of the organ and makes it slower. It produces slow gastric emptying. As the stomach empties more slowly, the content of hydrochloric acid in the stomach will irritate the walls indirectly, not by an effect of mayonnaise. The gastric emptying depends on many factors, including the regular diet of the person, because the body is able to adapt itself to the diet. According to studies, adaptation to a high-fat diet accelerates emptying of fat but not carbohydrate test meals in humans (8).

Gastroenterologists do not recommend consuming these products in excess and neither giving them to children, even in small amounts, or if the person has a known gastric problem.


In this article, we answered the following question: Can old pasta sauce make you sick? We talked about the proper way of storing pasta sauce and what can happen if you eat old pasta sauce.

Once a pot of sauce is opened we will have to keep it in the fridge if we are not going to consume it. The same rule applies to home-cooked sauces, which we can prepare in advance as long as we keep them in an airtight container and keep them refrigerated for several days. Also, we can freeze them without problems.

But avoid eating old pasta sauce, because it can make you sick. 

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


  1. Juliao, Patricia C., et al. National outbreak of type a foodborne botulism associated with a widely distributed commercially canned hot dog chili sauce. Clin infect dis, 2013, 56, 376-382. 
  2. Bhattacharya, Alex, et al. Outbreak of Clostridium perfringens food poisoning linked to leeks in cheese sauce: an unusual source. Epidemiol Infect, 2020, 148.  
  3. Croft, D. N. Cell turnover and loss and the gastric mucosal barrier. Am J Digest Dis, 1977, 22, 383-386.  
  4. FoodKeeper. United States Department of Agriculture.
  5. Shelf stable Food Safety. United States Department of Agriculture. 2015.
  6. Salehi, Bahare, et al. Beneficial effects and potential risks of tomato consumption for human health: An overview. Nutrition, 2019, 62, 201-208.
  7. Holmes, G. Worcestershire sauce and the kidneys. Brit Med J, 1971, 3, 252.
  8. Castiglione, K. E., N. W. Read, and S. J. French. Adaptation to high-fat diet accelerates emptying of fat but not carbohydrate test meals in humans. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comparat Physiol, 2002, 282, R366-R371.