How to tell if bread is spoiled? (5 simple ways)

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “how to tell if bread is spoiled”, discuss the different methods of identifying spoiled bread and the potential health effects after consuming spoiled bread.

How to tell if bread is spoiled?

Spoiled bread can be easily detected by using your senses. Here, we summarize five easy methods that will help you to determine if your bread is spoiled or not:

Important:  eating spoiled bread can expose you to different health risks and may lead to foodborne illnesses (1-7). You should always eat fresh bread!

  1. Discolored spots and color changes: when handling bread, it is important to inspect it for any visible discoloration, such as dark or green spots, as these can indicate mold or bacterial growth, indicating spoilage. 

Fresh bread typically has a light brown or creamy color, which can help distinguish it from spoiled bread. However, color alone may not be a reliable indicator until the bread is visibly attacked by fungus. 

When bread is affected by fungal spores or mold, its color may change to purple, and purple or green spots may appear. 

These spots are usually caused by fungal spores and serve as a clear sign of spoiled bread. In such cases, it is best to discard the bread immediately and avoid consuming it.

  1. Stale texture: as bread ages, it undergoes changes in texture that can indicate spoilage. Fresh bread has a soft and springy texture, while spoiled bread may feel excessively dry, hard, or crumbly. 

Although dryness alone does not necessarily render the bread inedible, the presence of molds indicates that it should not be consumed. 

If the bread has a hard texture but shows no signs of mold growth, it can still be repurposed as bread crumbs.

  1. Unpleasant odor: fresh bread is known for its pleasant aroma, characterized by a slightly sweet and yeasty scent. However, when bread spoils, it emits an off-putting smell that is sour, musty, or moldy. 

This unpleasant odor is caused by the growth of fungus spores, indicating that the bread is spoiled and should not be consumed. The presence of a moldy and foul smell serves as a clear sign that the bread has gone bad.

  1. Mold: the growth of mold is a clear indication of bread spoilage. When fungal spores attack the bread, they begin to grow, resulting in fuzzy green, white, or blue patches on the surface. 

Moldiness in bread can occur due to various reasons, but it is primarily caused by the growth of spores. When mold appears, it means that the bread has spoiled and it should be discarded. 

The presence of green fungi is a reliable indicator of spoiled bread. You should not eat bread contaminated with molds as they can produce mycotoxins that are very harmful for your health (4,6-7).

  1. Strange taste: if you detect an abnormal or off-flavor when tasting bread, it is a strong indication that it has spoiled. Fresh bread typically has a sweet taste, but if the bread tastes sour, bitter, or leaves an unpleasant aftertaste, it is likely spoiled. 

While tasting bread to identify spoilage is not recommended, a quick taste can reveal if the bread has gone bad. If it has a foul odor and an off taste, it should be discarded immediately. 

Eating moldy bread or consuming spoiled bread can lead to health issues, as fungal spores present in spoiled bread can cause food poisoning (4,6-7).

Remember to trust your senses and exercise caution. If you observe any of these signs, you should discard your bread immediately to avoid food poisoning.

Can you get sick from eating spoiled bread?

Yes, eating spoiled bread can pose potential risks to your health due to the presence of harmful microorganisms (1-7). 

While the chances of serious illness are relatively low (you can easily determine if your bread is spoiled), it is important to be aware of the potential dangers.

Here are some examples of pathogens and toxins that can be associated with spoiled bread and the symptoms they may cause:

  • Mold: consuming bread contaminated with mold can lead to allergic reactions or respiratory issues in susceptible individuals. Symptoms may include nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, or skin irritation (6-7).
  • Mycotoxins: some molds that grow on bread can produce mycotoxins, which are very toxic substances (4). 

Mycotoxins like aflatoxins and ochratoxin A can potentially be present in spoiled bread and can cause liver damage, kidney problems, and even cancer if consumed in large amounts over a long period (4).

  • Bacteria: certain bacteria can grow on spoiled bread and cause foodborne illnesses. For example, strains of Bacillus cereus can produce toxins leading to diarrhea, while Clostridium botulinum can produce a dangerous toxin causing botulism (2-3). 

Symptoms of bacterial contamination may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and in severe cases, botulism can cause muscle weakness and difficulty breathing (2).

It’s important to note that the risks associated with eating spoiled bread are generally low, and most healthy individuals may only experience mild symptoms, if any.

However, individuals with compromised immune systems, infants, children, pregnant women, and the elderly may be more susceptible to severe reactions.

To prioritize your health, it is always best to avoid consuming visibly spoiled bread and ensure you store and handle bread properly to prevent spoilage and reduce the risk of any potential health issues.

What should you do if you suspect you have eaten spoiled bread?

If you have consumed spoiled bread and you are now experiencing discomfort or have concerns about your health, there are several steps you can take.

Firstly, it is important to closely monitor any symptoms that may arise after consuming the spoiled bread. Common symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or any other unusual gastrointestinal discomfort. 

Take note of the severity and duration of these symptoms.

Staying hydrated is crucial if you are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting. It is recommended to drink plenty of water or clear fluids to replenish lost fluids and prevent dehydration. 

During this time, it is advisable to avoid consuming any additional potentially spoiled food until your symptoms subside.

If your symptoms are severe, persistent, or if you have concerns about your health, seeking medical advice is the best course of action. 

Consulting a healthcare professional will allow them to provide appropriate guidance based on your specific situation. They can evaluate your symptoms and advise you on whether further medical evaluation or treatment is necessary.

While recovering, it is important to give your body time to rest. Getting plenty of rest and maintaining a balanced diet with easily digestible foods can aid in the recovery process. 

It is also essential to follow any recommendations provided by healthcare professionals.

It is worth noting that while consuming spoiled bread can be unpleasant and cause discomfort, the risks of severe illness are generally low. 

Most individuals will experience mild symptoms that resolve on their own. However, if you have any doubts or concerns about your health, it is always best to consult a healthcare professional for personalized guidance.

How to properly handle bread to avoid spoilage?

To handle bread properly and prevent spoilage, you should follow these tips:

  • Purchase fresh bread that has a soft texture and shows no signs of mold or staleness. Check the expiration or “best before” date to ensure freshness.
  • Store bread at room temperature in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Avoid storing it near heat sources or in humid environments to prevent spoilage.
  • For short-term storage, keep bread in its original packaging or transfer it to a breathable bread bag or container. Consume it within a few days to avoid staleness.
  • To extend the shelf life, freeze sliced bread individually or in portions. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or use freezer bags to minimize exposure to air. 

Frozen bread can last up to three months. Thaw at room temperature or toast when ready to consume.

  • Refrigeration should be avoided as it can dry out the bread and alter its texture, although it can help delay mold growth if necessary.

The shelf life of bread varies based on the type, here you have some examples for the most common types of bread:

  • Freshly baked bread, without preservatives, is best consumed within a day or two due to its higher susceptibility to mold growth.
  • Store-bought bread with preservatives can last for about 5-7 days when properly stored at room temperature.
  • Artisan or homemade bread, often lacking preservatives, has a shorter shelf life of 2-3 days. It can be frozen for longer storage.

Keep in mind that these are general guidelines, and factors such as ingredients, preservatives, storage conditions, and individual variations can affect bread’s shelf life. 

Always use your judgment, check for signs of spoilage, and prioritize freshness to ensure the quality and safety of the bread you handle and consume.


In this brief article, we answered the question “how to tell if bread is spoiled”, and discussed the different methods of identifying spoiled bread and the potential health effects after consuming spoiled bread.


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