How to tell if cranberries are bad?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “how to tell if cranberries are bad?”. We will also discuss the health consequences of eating spoiled cranberries, and storage methods to prevent their spoilage.

How to tell if cranberries are bad?

When determining if cranberries have spoiled, you can look for several signs that indicate their freshness and quality. Here you can find some common indicators that could help you to determine if your cranberries have gone bad:

Important: If there are any doubts about the quality of your cranberries, you should discard them to avoid any potential foodborne illnesses. Eating spoiled cranberries can be very dangerous for your health (1-4)!

  • Appearance: Inspect the cranberries for any visible signs of mold, discoloration, or shrivelling. Fresh cranberries should have a vibrant, deep red color and a plump texture. If they appear discolored, soft, or have a fuzzy or slimy texture, they are likely spoiled.
  • Smell: Take a whiff of the cranberries. Fresh cranberries have a tart, slightly sweet aroma. If you notice any unpleasant or foul odors, it could be a sign of spoilage.
  • Texture: Feel the cranberries to assess their texture. Fresh cranberries should be firm and slightly springy to the touch. If they feel mushy, overly soft, or have a slimy texture, they have likely deteriorated.
  • Taste: If the cranberries look and smell fine, you can taste one or a few to check for any off-flavors. Spoiled cranberries may taste sour, fermented, or generally unpleasant.

Remember that you can always rely on your senses to assess the freshness of your food. 

Can you get sick from eating spoiled cranberries?

Yes, eating spoiled cranberries can pose health risks due to the presence of harmful pathogens and their toxins (1-4). 

Consuming spoiled cranberries contaminated with pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli can lead to foodborne illnesses (3). Symptoms of bacterial infections may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea (potentially bloody), fever, headache, and muscle aches (5).

Spoiled cranberries can also harbor mold, which may produce mycotoxins (1,6). Ingesting these toxins can cause various health issues, including nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, allergic reactions, respiratory problems, and liver damage (1,6).

Furthermore, eating spoiled cranberries can result in general food poisoning symptoms, which can vary depending on the contaminants present. These symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, fatigue, and headache (5,7).

If you suspect you have consumed spoiled cranberries and experience severe or persistent symptoms, it is advisable to seek medical attention promptly.

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

If you have eaten spoiled cranberries and believe they may cause health problems, here’s what you can do: 

  • Monitor your symptoms closely, especially signs of foodborne illness or food poisoning such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, headache, and fatigue. 
  • Stay hydrated by drinking fluids like water and electrolyte solutions. 
  • Seek medical advice if symptoms worsen or become severe. 
  • Preserve any remaining cranberries as evidence, but discard them to prevent further consumption or contamination. 

Finally, remember that consulting a healthcare professional is crucial for personalized guidance and treatment.

How to properly handle cranberries to avoid spoilage?

To properly handle cranberries and avoid spoilage, here are some guidelines:

  • Storage: For longer shelf life, store cranberries in a pantry at an optimum temperature. Once a can of cranberry box is opened, transfer the remaining cranberries to an airtight container.
  • Freezing: To store fresh cranberries, freeze them in an airtight container for up to a year. For freezing, you can either use the dry freezing method or freeze them in their original packaging. 

In the dry freezing method, sort through the cranberries, arrange them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and freeze them quickly. Afterwards, transfer the frozen cranberries to a freezer bag or sealed container for up to one month.

  • Thawing: Fresh cranberries can be used without thawing. Simply transfer them from the freezer to your dish, rinse them under cold water to remove any frost, and drain excess water. Remember to wash cranberries before freezing to remove pesticides and contaminants.
  • Selecting good quality cranberries: Choose cranberries that are red, round, glossy, and juicy. Brighter colors indicate higher concentrations of healthy components. The berries should have a strong and springy texture. Avoid shriveled cranberries or those with brown stains.

By following these guidelines, you will be able to handle your cranberries properly, and you will maximize their shelf life and maintain their quality.


In this brief article, we will answer the question, “how to tell if cranberries are bad?”. We will also discuss the health consequences of eating spoiled cranberries, and storage methods to prevent their spoilage.


1. Zhang K, Tan S, Xu D. Determination of Mycotoxins in Dried Fruits Using LC-MS/MS—A Sample Homogeneity, Troubleshooting and Confirmation of Identity Study. Foods 2022, Vol 11, Page 894 [Internet]. 2022 Mar 21 [cited 2023 Jun 2];11(6):894. Available from: 

2. Drusch S, Ragab W. Mycotoxins in Fruits, Fruit Juices, and Dried Fruits. J Food Prot [Internet]. 2003 Aug 1 [cited 2023 May 15];66(8):1514–27. Available from: 

3. Enache E, Chen Y. Survival of Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes in Cranberry Juice Concentrates at Different °Brix Levels. J Food Prot [Internet]. 2007 Sep 1 [cited 2023 Jun 2];70(9):2072–7. Available from: 

4. Gecan J, Schulze AE, Cichowicz SM, Atkinson JC. Mold in Jellied and Whole-Berry Styles of Cranberry Sauce. J Food Prot [Internet]. 1979 [cited 2023 Jun 2];42(4):328–9. Available from: 

5. Milaciu M V, Ciumărnean L, Orășan OH, Para I, Alexescu T, Negrean V. Semiology of food poisoning. Int J Bioflux Soc [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2023 May 10];8(2):108–13. Available from: 

6. Drusch S, Ragab W. Mycotoxins in Fruits, Fruit Juices, and Dried Fruits. J Food Prot [Internet]. 2003 Aug 1 [cited 2023 May 11];66(8):1514–27. Available from: 

7. Lennard LB. Food microbiology and food poisoning. In: Food & Nutrition [Internet]. Taylor & francis Gr…. Routledge; 2020 [cited 2023 May 30]. p. 132–54. Available from: 

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