Can you get sick from eating expired jam?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “Can you get sick from eating expired jam” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not you can get sick from eating expired jam. Moreover, we are going to discuss tips for properly storing jams.

So without much ado, let’s dive in and figure out more about it.

Can you get sick from eating expired jam?

When it comes to jam, you do not necessarily get sick from eating expired jam as long as it was stored appropriately and it doesn’t show any evidence of spoilage. 

If the jam shows evident signs of spoilage, you can get sick from eating it. Jam can host mycotoxin-producing mold species that can be hazardous to your health. (10)

An expiration date label provides consumers with information about the freshness of the product. 

“Best before”, i.e., is defined as the period within which the food will not be stale, which signifies freshness or quality of the food. 

 “Use by”, i.e., is defined as the period within which the food will not have harmful microbiological activity that could lead to food poisoning, which signifies safety. (12)

What is the shelf life of jam?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, if the jam is in the pantry from the date of purchase, it can last from 6 to 18 months, and if it is refrigerated after opening, 6 to 12 months. (13)

In general, the preservation of jams involves implementing a combination of measures to hinder spoilage. These measures typically include adjusting the pH level, reducing water activity through the addition of solutes, applying heat treatment, and utilizing preservatives.(1)

Different types of jams have different shelf lives depending upon the ingredients that are used to make them and the processing techniques they have to go through.

Full Sugar Jam

Unopened store bought jam lasts for about 6 to 18 months when stored in a cool, dry and dark corner of your pantry, away from direct sunlight and heat.

As long as the jar sea remains intact and there are no visible signs of spoilage such as the presence of molds or yeasts, a typical fruit jam or jelly made with full sugar should be considered safe to consume. (2)

Homemade jam

It is recommended that all homemade jam be consumed within a year. Most homemade jams should retain the best quality and flavor for up to that recommended time. (2)

Homemade jams should be kept in the refrigerator for only 1 month after opening. (3)

Low sugar or sugar-free jam

Reduced sugar jams have a higher likelihood of experiencing faster deterioration in terms of color and texture since they lack the preservative effects provided by sugar. 

Additionally, certain fruits may darken more rapidly when there is less sugar present. Any flavor changes that occur over time become more apparent in reduced sugar jams, as they are typically masked by the higher sugar content in regular jams. (2) 

Jams with lower sugar content or no added sugar may have a relatively shorter shelf life when refrigerated and opened compared to those prepared with the traditional amounts of sugar. (2)

How to properly store jam?

Unopened jam should be stored in a cool, dark and dry place between 50-70°F. Once opened, jam should be stored in refrigeration at 40°F or lower. Although you should check the correct storage directions on the label. (3) 

What are the signs of spoiled jam?

Certain indicators tell whether or not your jam has gone bad. You can consider the appearance, consistency, smell, and taste of the jam to find out whether or not it has gone bad.


Always check the lid and seal of your jam. The presence of an unsealed lid on a jar can be an indication of spoilage, even in the absence of other visible signs. The growth of spoilage bacteria and yeast can generate gas, resulting in increased pressure within the food container, causing the lids to swell and the jar seals to break. (4,5)


Mold or yeast growth may develop on your jam, producing off-odors and flavors (6), as an indicator of spoilage. 


If the consistency of the jam has become watery or softer, or it is separating into solid and water, it might indicate that the pectin in the jam is breaking down. 

The water loss and its accumulation on the surface may become a favorable environment for microbial growth. (7,8) 


If the smell of the jam is sour, foul, or yeast-like, it is an indication that your jam has gone bad and you should discard it.

So what you gotta do is to do the sensory evaluation of your jam and if your sensory evaluation gives you a green flag, you are good to eat the jam without the risk of getting sick.

What are the risks of consuming expired jam?

When jams are infected by molds, they have a high possibility of being infected by mycotoxins. Upon consuming these mycotoxins by mistake, one may have to face adverse effects including food poisoning, immune deficiency and even cancer. (11)

Consuming food products contaminated with mycotoxins can lead to acute effects characterized by the rapid onset of severe symptoms of illness. 

What are the factors that affect jam spoilage?

Generally, mold can not grow easily on jam because jam is made from acidic fruits and due to their high concentration of sugar within the jams and jellies. However, mold can develop in several cases. (9)

By sealing jars while they are still warm from sterilization, the amount of air above the surface is reduced, thereby limiting the presence of oxygen. 

However, once a jar is opened, the oxygen limitation is no longer effective, and it also allows potential contaminating microbes to enter. 

It’s worth noting that fungi, including yeasts, which can grow on the surface of jam, exhibit resistance to high sugar levels and may even thrive in such conditions. (9)

Low sugar jams are particularly vulnerable to fungi and yeasts which can tolerate high sugar levels. (9)

For homemade jam, not screwing on the lid tightly enough, or leaving the jar open for too long during the process can also contribute to mold growth. 

Moreover, if you add your prepared jam to an unclean and unsterilized jar, bacteria can contaminate your product and develop easily.(5) 

Furthermore, lack of refrigeration after opening can lead to mold development, however, some molds can proliferate at refrigerator temperature and secrete toxins and lead to food spoilage and poisoning. (9)

Other FAQs about Jam that you may be interested in.

Does jam go bad?

How to preserve jam in jars


In this brief guide, we answered the question “can you get sick from eating expired jam” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not you can get sick from eating expired jam. Moreover, we discussed tips to properly store jam.


  1.  Vilela Borges, S., Shelf Life of Jams in Polypropylene Packaging. Universidade Federal de Lavras, Departamento de Ciencia dos Alimentos.
  2. National center for home food preservation. Frequently Asked Jam and Jelly Questions.
  3. National Center for Home Food Preservation. Making Jams and Jellies.
  4. University of Missouri. How to determine spoilage in home-canned goods. Preserve it Fresh, Preserve it Safe: 2021, No.2.
  5. National Center for Home Food Preservation. General Canning Information
  6. Sahu, M., Bala, S., Food processing, food spoilage and their prevention: an overview. Int. J. Life Sci. Scienti. Res., 3(1): 753-759.
  7. Rubinskiene, M., Speiciene, V., Leskauskaite, D., Viskelis, P. Effect of black currant genotype on the quality and rheological properties of jams. Journal of Food, Agriculture & Environment.
  8. Kavaya, R.I., Omwamba, M.N., Chikamai, B.N., Mahungu, S.M. Sensory Evaluation of Syneresis Reduced Jam and Marmalade Containing Gum Arabic from Acacia senegal var. kerensis. Food and Nutrition Sciences. 
  9. Isaac, S. Why does jam go mouldy, even in the fridge?. Mycology Answers. University of Liverpool. 
  10. United States Department of Agriculture. Molds on Food: Are they dangerous?. Food Safety and Inspection Service. 
  11. World Health Organization. Mycotoxins.
  12. An expiration date label provides consumers with information about the freshness of the product. 
  13. United States Department of Agriculture. Food Keeper

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