How to tell if Coleslaw is bad? 

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “How to tell if Coleslaw is bad?” methods to store Coleslaw,  to detect spoiled Coleslaw and the health consequences of eating spoiled Coleslaw.

How to tell if Coleslaw is bad?

If the Coleslaw gives off a foul odor or discoloration, it is likely to be bad. If there are signs of mold growth, you should avoid consuming it.

You should be careful as eating spoiled Coleslaw contaminated with molds or any other harmful microorganism can make you very sick (1-4). You should not eat spoiled Coleslaw. 

If Coleslaw is kept outside for a long time, it could lose its texture and turn watery.

A watery Coleslaw is not necessarily an indication of spoilage. If the Coleslaw contains dark spots or gives a foul smell, it is time to throw it away.

Another method to detect whether the Coleslaw is spoiled is to taste it.  If it has an awful taste, throw it away. Be careful while tasting spoiled Coleslaw as it can contain dangerous toxins that can make you sick if you eat them (1-4).

Remember that Coleslaw can naturally taste sour because of the presence of vinegar or lemon juice as a result of which sourness is not an indication of spoilage.

Can you get sick from eating spoiled Coleslaw?

Yes, eating spoiled coleslaw can pose several dangers to your health. When your coleslaw spoils, it can become contaminated with harmful pathogens that can cause different foodborne illnesses (1-4). 

These pathogens can multiply in your Coleslaw and produce harmful toxins that can make you sick. 

Here are some potential symptoms you may experience after consuming spoiled coleslaw contaminated with specific pathogens:

  • If your Coleslaw is contaminated with Salmonella, you may experience symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, and vomiting (3). In severe cases, it can lead to dehydration and require medical attention.
  • If your Coleslaw is contaminated with Escherichia coli (for instance E. coli O157:H7), you may experience symptoms like severe abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and sometimes kidney damage or failure (1).
  • If your Coleslaw is contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, you may experience fever, muscle aches, nausea, diarrhea, and in more severe cases, it can cause meningitis or bloodstream infections (3).

Be aware that pregnant women, older adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems are at higher risk (5).

  • If your Coleslaw is contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, you may experience botulism, a rare but serious illness (4). Symptoms can include blurred or double vision, difficulty swallowing or speaking, muscle weakness, and paralysis (6). 

You should know that botulism can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.

These are just a few examples of harmful pathogens that can contaminate spoiled coleslaw and cause foodborne illnesses. 

You should know that the symptoms can vary depending on the individual, the specific pathogen involved, and the extent of contamination. 

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

If you suspect that you have consumed spoiled coleslaw and are experiencing symptoms of food poisoning, it is important to take appropriate steps to address the situation. 

Firstly, assess your symptoms carefully, paying close attention to any signs of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or fever, which are typical signs of food poisoning (7). 

You should also record the severity and duration of these symptoms to provide accurate information to healthcare professionals if needed.

You must stay hydrated, particularly if you are experiencing vomiting or diarrhea. Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration (8). Opt for water, clear broths, and electrolyte solutions to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes.

You should avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, as they can worsen dehydration.

Remember that healthcare professionals can provide a proper diagnosis, offer necessary treatment, and provide guidance on managing your symptoms effectively. So, ask your personal doctor for advice!

Additionally, if you suspect that the coleslaw you consumed was contaminated and could pose a public health risk, it is crucial to report the incident to your local health department or food safety agency. 

To prevent any further consumption or potential contamination, discard any remaining coleslaw immediately. 

Finally, to prevent future incidents, it is essential to practice good food safety habits . This includes ensuring proper storage, refrigeration, and handling of perishable foods, as well as checking expiration dates before consuming packaged products (9). 

By following these precautions and seeking appropriate medical attention when necessary, you can effectively address the situation and minimize potential risks to your health. 

What is the shelf-life of Coleslaw?

Coleslaw has a pretty short shelf-life (2). If the coleslaw is store-bought, you can always refer to its best by date label on the package. Avoid consuming it post the best by date as salads are perishable and spoil quickly.

Coleslaw prepared at home has a shorter shelf-life of 4-5 days. If the coleslaw is store-bought and opened it can approximately last for 2-3 days though make sure to check the best by date label. 

Make sure to wash the cabbage properly before making a Coleslaw at home. If it is a bagged coleslaw mix, still it is better to wash them to avoid incidences of food poisoning.

How to store Coleslaw?

  • Keep the Coleslaw in the fridge. Make sure to place it in an airtight container.
  • Keep the Coleslaw away from strongly odored foods as Coleslaw is likely to pick up those odors.
  • If you have prepared a large bulk of Coleslaw, you can half of it immediately and store the rest of the Coleslaw in the fridge.
  • Avoid keeping the Coleslaw at room temperature as microbes can on the food at the temperature between 40 and 140℉ and hasten the process of deterioration.
  • If you have prepared Coleslaw in bulk, you can store the dressings and vegetables separately. Before eating you can combine the veggies and dressings.

Can Coleslaw be frozen?

Yes, Coleslaw can be frozen though it is not recommended. 

If the Coleslaw contains mayonnaise, be aware that mayo tends to separate during thawing. As a result, Coleslaw containing mayonnaise should not be frozen. 

If the Coleslaw contains vinegar, it can be frozen. Freeze the Coleslaw in its original pack or in an airtight container. 

After freezing, you can thaw it. Thawing can make the Coleslaw watery and even reduce the consistency of Coleslaw.

Does the dressing used in Coleslaw determine its shelf-life?

Yes, it does. Coleslaw prepared using vinegar can last much longer than the one prepared using mayonnaise. So, if you plan to store Coleslaw longer in the fridge, you can go for making Coleslaw containing a vinegar dressing.


In this brief article, we answered the question, “How to tell if Coleslaw is bad?” methods to store Coleslaw,  to detect spoiled Coleslaw and the health consequences of eating spoiled Coleslaw.


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