How long can you eat bread after the sell-by date?
This article will answer the question “How long can you eat bread after the sell-by date?”, and how to store bread?
How long can you eat bread after the sell-by date?
You can eat bread a few days or even months after the sell-by, however, it is not possible to define how long you can eat bread after the sell-by date, as the shelf life of bread after the sell-by date varies depending on many factors (1).
Bread is susceptible to microbial spoilage and consuming spoiled bread can be a health risk. However, the main factor determining the rejection of eating bread after the sell-by date is related to the sensory properties, especially the texture.
Therefore, the time after the expiration date that bread can still be consumed may be determined more by the personal preferences than by the spoilage of bread.
However, it is necessary to identify when bread is spoiled and not more suitable to eat.
How to know if bread is spoiled?
To know if the bread is spoiled and should no longer be consumed, you need to be aware of the possible signs of spoilage in bread. These are (1,2,3,4):
Growth of mold: formation of colonies on the surface of the bread may indicate mold growth. The colonies can be white, green or black and form spots on the surface
Generation of off-odors: formation of odors such as rancid, sour or musty are possible signs of spoilage. Lipids present in the bread are susceptible to oxidation, resulting in the generation of volatiles characterizing rancidity. In addition, the action of microorganisms can also generate off-odors in the bread
Loss of texture: loss of flavor and crispness, increasing the crumb and crust firmness and staling are indications that the bread is old and may not be more suitable to consume
What is the shelf-life of bread?
The shelf life of bread varies from a few days to several months, depending on the storage conditions, the type of bread and its ingredients and the packaging material (1).
Usually commercial breads and bread products, such as bagel, buns, flat breads and rolls have preservatives and therefore have a longer shelf life of 14 to 18 days at room temperature.
Homemade breads have a shorter shelf life and should not be stored in the refrigerator, as the low temperature – not frozen – may accelerate the staling process (2).
The following table shows the estimated shelf-life of different types of bread under different storage conditions (5).
|In the pantry
|In the fridge
|In the freezer
|Commercial breads and baked goods
|Homemade white bread
|Homemade whole bread
|Commercial whole bread
How to store bread?
To store bread, wrap the bread with a material that has a good moisture and oxygen barrier or in a container that is effective in maintaining the bread free from moisture and air (1).
Independently if you store it at room temperature, refrigerator or freezer, keeping bread safe from moisture and oxygen can extend its shelf life.
What factors influence the shelf-life of bread?
There are many factors that may affect the shelf life of bread, including (1,2,4):
The ingredients: Breads have different compositions and may contain different ingredients, such as flour, salt and yeast. Because whole wheat has a higher amount of lipids and proteins, whole bread is more susceptible of suffering oxidation processes than white breads and therefore has a shorter shelf life
Addition of preservatives: Sodium propionate is one common additive used to extend the shelf life of commercial breads. Homemade bread does not contain such additives
Addition of antioxidants: The addition of fats to breads result in a reduced shelf life due to the increased risk of oxidation, which causes the rancidity of oils and fats. Some commercial products contain antioxidant additives, such as BHT. Natural antioxidants may also be used, such as ascorbic acid (3).
The packaging material: Different materials have diverse barriers against moisture and oxygen. To increase the shelf life of breads, modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is being used. High level of oxygen present in food packages has a significant contribution in the reduction of the shelf life. The MAP keeps the surroundings of the bread with other gas rather than oxygen (2).
Storage temperature: Frozen bread has a longer shelf life than bread stored at room temperature, because freezing can reduce the rate in which chemical and enzymatic reactions occur, in addition to halt the growth of microorganisms
Freeze-thawing cycles: Repeated freezing and thawing of bread reduces the shelf life of bread, as it accelerates the staling process
What are the risks of eating expired bread?
The risk of eating expired bread is of experiencing a foodborne disease. Breads are susceptible to contamination by bacteria, especially Bacillus cereus and Bacillus subtilis as well as by yeasts (2).
Consuming bread infected by these bacteria can lead to diseases, and symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, fever and other flu-like symptoms.
In addition, mold and fungal infection in bread is one of the main causes of deterioration in baked goods (4). Penicillium, Aspergillus and Rhizopus are some molds that grow on breads, as well as the yeast Hyphopichia burtonii.
Fungi produce toxins that affect health. Eating food containing a large amount of aflatoxins at one time can lead to liver failure and even death.
This article answered the question “How long can you eat bread after the sell-by date?”, and how to store bread?
- Kilcast, David, and Persis Subramaniam. The Stability and Shelf-Life of Food. Woodhead Publishing Limited. 2000.
- Mihaly Cozmuta, Anca, et al. Active packaging system based on Ag/TiO2 nanocomposite used for extending the shelf life of bread. Chemical and microbiological investigations. Packaging Technol Sci, 2015, 28, 271-284.
- Osuna, Mariana B., et al. Proximal composition, sensorial properties and effect of ascorbic acid and α-tocopherol on oxidative stability of bread made with whole flours and vegetable oils. LWT, 2018, 98, 54-61.
- Rahman M, Islam R, Hasan S, Zzaman W, Rana MR, Ahmed S, et al. A Comprehensive Review on Bio-Preservation of Bread: An Approach to Adopt Wholesome Strategies. Foods [Internet] 2022, 11, 319
- FSIS’ FoodKeeper. US Department of Agriculture.