Can out-of-date lettuce make you sick?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can out-of-date lettuce make you sick?”, and how to tell If the lettuce has gone bad?

Can out-of-date lettuce make you sick?

Eating out-of-date lettuce can make you sick If It was slimy or foul-smelling. If the lettuce is past its expiry or does not smell or look right, throw it in the bin because of better safe than sorry. 

out-of-date lettuce can be turned into compost If you have a kitchen garden. Read on If you want to know the safety-related issues of eating lettuce.

Eating lettuce and food safety 

Raw lettuce and sprouts harbor the pathogenic E.coli, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The result is food poisoning reflected in diarrhea, stomach pain, fever, and vomiting. 

To prevent the spread of foodborne illness form, your hands, utensils, and kitchen counters should be clean at all times. The second most important food safety guideline provided by the FDA is to keep the raw food (meat, seafood) separate from the fresh and cooked produce.

Brown lettuce and food poisoning 

The browning of the lettuce is due to oxidation or tip burn. The former is the result of cuts and bruises while the latter occurs due to soil water stress. When lettuce undergoes the lettuce spotting process, It develops brown or black spots here and there. 

This happens when the lettuce is exposed to ethylene which stimulates the production of certain phenolic compounds. This is not a sign of unsafe lettuce unless coupled with a foul smell of unusual texture.

What about pink lettuce?

Exposure of lettuce to high temperature or over maturation leads to the ribs of the lettuce developing a pink color. This pink rib phenomenon does not render the lettuce unsafe for consumption unless there is something wrong with the greens. 

How to store lettuce?

  • To keep lettuce crispy, bright, and fresh, make sure to completely dry it after rinsing it with water. Use Tupperware containers, zip-lock plastic bags, or any other air-tight container to lock the moisture. 
  • Lettuce should be stored in the fridge. Before putting the lettuce in the container, line it with 2-3 paper towels to absorb the excess moisture. 
  • Make sure to place the container at the front of the fridge shelf and away from fruits like bananas and apples that produce ethylene in large amounts. 
  • Keep changing the paper towels daily or once they feel damp. Fully intact heads of lettuce will last longer than their chopped counterparts. 

How long does lettuce last?

Past printed date 
Head Iceberg Lettuce 7-10 days 
Head Romaine Lettuce 7-10 days 
Head Leaf lettuce 5-7 days 
Head Butter Lettuce 3-5 days 
Chopped or loose lettuce 3-5 days 
Fresh Express Lettuce 3-5 days 

Other FAQs about Lettuce which you may be interested in.

How long does it take to pass lettuce?

How do restaurants keep lettuce crisp?

How long can lettuce sit out?

How to tell If the lettuce has gone bad?

Look for discolorations 

If the discoloration of the lettuce is accompanied by a slimy texture and bad smell, the lettuce is rotting. 

Lettuce should have a light green or yellow color (except the red coral variety that has purple leaves). Brown spots do not indicate rotting unless other spoilage signs are present.

Give it a sniff 

If the lettuce gives off a striking rancid smell, It is rotting. Along with this pungent smell, a slimy texture, and discoloration are commonly observed. 

Fresh lettuce doe not give off any particular smell, only a mild earthy smell can be detected If at all.

Notice the signs of wilting 

Although wilted or wrinkled lettuce is safe for consumption unless It has started to turn brown, It can be discarded for quality reasons. 

If you want, you can revitalize this lettuce by soaking it in ice-cold water for 30 minutes.

Feel the texture (Swollen or moist bags of lettuce belong in the bin)

A sticky, Slimy, or wet lettuce surface is an indication of rot. Soft and wet leaves may not be regarded as unsafe for consumption, but they taste bad.

Before opening the lettuce bag, If you feel the bag is puffed up or you notice any drops of water accumulating on the inside of the bag, throw it away without any second thoughts. 

At his point If you open the bag, the rotting smell escaping the bag will be very telling of the compromised safety of the lettuce.

Taste the lettuce 

Tear a small apparently fine portion of the lettuce, If It tastes sour, spit it out and discard the lettuce right away.


In this article, we answered the question “Can out-of-date lettuce make you sick?”, and how to tell If the lettuce has gone bad?



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Hello, I'm Sana Ameer. I'm a student of Food Science and Technology at UVAS. I like to bake and I aspire to become a Food blogger.