Can you eat stale chips?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat stale chips?” and discuss can you eat expire chips?

Can you eat stale chips?

Yes, you can eat stale chips. If the chips are only stale due to the loss of texture and no other signs of degradation are noticed, it is safe to eat. However, it is not recommended to eat stale chips when the chips are rancid. 

Stale chips are chips that lose their texture due to the increased moisture, and it is possible that the chips become unsafe with time, due to several changes that occur with the increase of moisture (1). The stale chips will become unsafe when there are signs of microbial degradation or when they are oxidized.

The loss of texture of potato chips is related to the amount of free water available in the product, or its water activity, which, increased, can lead to the increasing rate of chemical and enzymatic reactions, lipid oxidation, and microbial growth (1). 

What are the risks of eating stale chips?

The risks of eating stale chips are if the chips, in addition to being stale, are rancid. In the long term, eating rancid chips may lead to the development of degenerative diseases. Stale and oxidized chips generally contain high amounts of oxidized lipids, which are reactive oxygen species.

Excessive amounts of reactive oxygen species are directly or indirectly involved in various inflammatory diseases. By consuming a chemically degraded food, negative effects on health are possible in the long term, such as aging, cancer, Pakinson’s disease, atherosclerosis, heart failure, fatty liver and inflammatory diseases (7).

Rancidity is a sign of an advanced oxidation process. The perception of rancidity by consumers is generally prior to the instrumental detection in a laboratory. Once lipid oxidation products are detected by instrumental analysis, then it is highly likely that the sensory properties of the product are compromised (8).

Therefore, if the off-odors and off-flavors of oxidized lipids are noticed, the chips should not be eaten. These negative sensory attributes indicate the presence of free radicals in the food.

Free radicals produced by lipid oxidation damage the walls of blood vessels and lipoproteins and other particles circulating in the blood. Free radicals may attack nucleic acids, modifying their structure and changing the genetic code of the cell. Therefore, they have mutagenic, teratogenic, and carcinogenic activities (1).

In addition, as staleness indicates increase of moisture, microorganisms are able to develop and grow to a number sufficient enough to be harmful to health. Microbial growth generally increases with increasing moisture. 

Is it possible to become ill from eating stale chips?

It is possible to become ill from eating stale chips if, in addition to only having a soft texture, the chips are oxidized or infected by pathogenic microorganisms. With the presence of moisture, microorganisms start growing and the oxidation process advances rapidly. 

There are many bacteria able to survive in very low moisture foods, such as chips, for long periods of time, in the form of spores or viable cells. As soon as there is enough water in the food, they start growing. 

Staphylococcus aureus is particularly well adapted to reduced-moisture environments. Other examples are Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella, which are able to cause diseases. Several food outbreaks were reported related to low moisture food, including potato chips (4). 

How to know if chips have gone stale?

To know if chips have gone stale, you should be aware of the possible signs indicating the staleness of chips, such as loss of texture, generation of off-odors or off-flavors and signs of fungal development.

Rancid chips are easily detectable, as the volatiles having characteristic odors are produced during the oxidation reactions of lipids and their thresholds are generally low, which means that they may be detected by small quantities. 

The loss in texture is a sign of increased moisture. As mentioned earlier in this article, chips may carry bacteria in dormant state, which may start growing as soon as the conditions are favorable, that is, as soon as there is enough water in the food. Pathogenic bacteria can develop and grow, when chips become soft.

Finally, molds are able to contaminate chips and other dry foods. Fungi are manifested by rot spots of various sizes and colors, unsightly scabs, slime, white cottony mycelium, or highly colored sporulating mold. Abnormal flavors and odors may also be produced.

How to prevent chips from going stale?

To prevent chips from going stale, you should store it properly and consume it before the expiration date. 

Chips should be stored in a dark, cool place, away from sunlight and heat sources, such as electric equipment, and in a closed container. Oxygen, heat, light and moisture accelerates its staleing (8). 

The shelf life of chips depends on the following factors:

  • The ingredients: depending on the fat used to produce the chips, the oxidation rates are increased
  • The addition of antioxidants to prevent oxidation of the lipids
  • The packaging material used. Packaging materials with high gas and moisture barriers should be used in the case of chips 


In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat stale chips?” and we discussed can you eat expire chips?


  1. Rahman, Mohammad Shafiur, and Theodore P. Labuza. Water activity and food preservation. Handbook of food preservation. CRC Press, 2007. 465-494. 
  2. Spiteri, Marine, and Louis-Georges Soler. Food reformulation and nutritional quality of food consumption: an analysis based on households panel data in France. Euro j clin nutr, 2018, 72, 228-235.
  3. Fontana, Anthony J. Understanding the importance of water activity in food. Cereal foods world, 2000, 45, 7-10.  
  4. Beuchat, Larry R., et al. Low–water activity foods: increased concern as vehicles of foodborne pathogens. J food protect, 2013, 76, 150-172.
  5. Collart, Alba J., and Matthew G. Interis. Consumer imperfect information in the market for expired and nearly expired foods and implications for reducing food waste. Sustainab, 2018, 10, 3835.
  6. Food product dating. United States Department of Agriculture.
  7. Vieira, Samantha A., Guodong Zhang, and Eric A. Decker. Biological implications of lipid oxidation products. J Am Oil Chem Soc, 2017, 94, 339-351.
  8. Barden, Leann, and Eric A. Decker. Lipid oxidation in low-moisture food: A review. Crit rev food sci nutr, 2016, 56, 2467-2482.

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