How does food go bad?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “How does food go bad” with an in-depth analysis of how food goes bad. Moreover, we will have a brief discussion about how to stop food from spoiling.

So if you are in search of an answer to how food goes bad, then you need not worry as we are going to answer all your questions.

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

How does food go bad?

The actions of bacteria, molds, and yeasts; heat; oxidation from air exposure; or enzymes in the foods themselves can all be referred to as “becoming bad.”

To not spoil your appetite, all foods will spoil, rot, decompose, crumble, putrefy, or turn rancid over time. Proteins become soft, squishy, rotten, and green; carbohydrates ferment, and lipids become rancid and sour.

Microbial, chemical, and physical interactions can cause food to spoil, affecting the flavor, smell, and appearance of a product.


Bacteria, yeasts, and molds are common microorganisms found in foods. These microbes can be found all around us and in some meals. Microorganisms feed off moisture and can easily lead to contamination if necessary safeguards are not taken.

Even if the food consumed is prepared to an acceptable temperature, germs can swiftly proliferate and release hazardous toxins when exposed to inappropriate storage conditions between 40 °F and 140 °F.

The following are the key perpetrators:

Clostridium perfringens thrives in low-oxygen environments and is typically detected on raw meat and poultry. The most common cause of food poisoning is Bacillus cereus. This bacteria is found in decomposing organic materials and grows at a variety of temperatures and pH levels.


The second most common cause of deterioration is chemical changes caused by exposure to air and light. Food spoilage can be caused by oxygen in several ways:

Encourages the growth of microorganisms, resulting in the formation of mold and yeast. Browning and bad odors are caused by oxidizing enzymes, which speed up chemical reactions in food. Oxidizing lipids destroy fatty parts of food, causing foul odors and a bad taste.

Food will inevitably be exposed to light. Light, whether natural or artificial, can promote photodegradation in a product, resulting in discoloration, off-flavor, and vitamin loss.


Physical deterioration of raw vegetables is especially common due to bruising and splits. Improper packaging, damaged packages, and even dented cans can all cause physical damage. Microorganisms, live things, and environmental elements can all take advantage of the damage.


Food deterioration is also influenced by temperature. The chemical reactions that cause the spoiling process speed up as the temperature rises. As a result, putting goods in the refrigerator or freezer helps to halt the decaying process.

Excessive heat will speed up enzyme reactions in terms of temperature. Accidental freezing and thawing due to cold weather will result in cracking. However, the majority of rotting occurs at moderate temperatures.

How to stop food from spoiling

You can save your food from spoiling by doing some processes that are briefed below


Bacteria require moisture, oxygen, and a specific temperature range to multiply. Dehydration is the process of removing moisture from foods to slow or halt spoilage microorganisms from growing. Low humidity and a heat source are required to successfully dehydrate food. A standard oven set to warm with the door open or a food dehydrator can be used. 

The dish should be cooked at around 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Dry, flowing air aids in the removal of moisture from the food. Foods that have been dehydrated become lighter, smaller, and easier to store and carry.

Freezing and Refrigeration

Pathogenic bacteria cannot thrive freely in refrigerators set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Refrigerators, on the other hand, are rarely cold enough to stop all bacterial growth. Foods, especially meats, should be checked for symptoms of deterioration. 

Freezers are good for storing food for a long time. Remove as much air from the container as possible to properly preserve items in the freezer. Make sure the temperature is set at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. 

If there is a power outage, close the refrigerator and freezer doors. An external thermometer allows you to monitor the temperature of the fridge or freezer without having to open the doors.


The traditional method of canning can be used to preserve high-acid foods. Apples, berries, peaches, and tomatoes are just a few fruits and vegetables that can be properly canned. Boiling water eliminates spoilage germs and seals the jar lid with a vacuum. 

To ensure that all bacteria are destroyed, canned foods must be boiled for a minimum of time. Botulism is a dangerous bacterial toxin that multiplies swiftly in inadequately treated canned products. Closed kettle boiling with heat-tempered jars and lids is recommended by the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office.


In this brief guide, we answered the question “How does food go bad” with an in-depth analysis of how food goes bad. Moreover, we also have a brief discussion about how to stop food from spoiling.


Mahnoor Asghar is a Clinical Nutritionist with a bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is compassionate and dedicated to playing her part in the well-being of the masses. She wants to play a fruitful role in creating nutrition and health-related awareness among the general public. Additionally, she has a keen eye for detail and loves to create content related to food, nutrition, health, and wellness.