What happens if you eat bad broccoli?

In this article, we will answer the question, “What happens if you eat bad broccoli?” and discuss the risks of eating bad broccoli, how to know if broccoli is bad and how to prevent broccoli from going bad.  

What happens if you eat bad broccoli?

If you eat bad broccoli it is possible that you have a foodborne disease due to the ingestion of pathogenic microorganisms or their toxins. Many food outbreaks related to the ingestion of contaminated vegetables have been reported in North America and worldwide in the past years (1).

However, it is possible that nothing harmful happens, because broccoli can go bad due to various ways and not only due to microbial contamination (2).

What is the risk of eating bad broccoli?

The risk of eating bad broccoli is the possibility of having a foodborne disease. Broccoli is susceptible to microbial contamination by several microorganisms, including pathogens. 

Some of the microorganisms commonly found in broccoli are fecal coliforms, Escherichia coli, and Listeria monocytogenes, Pseudomonas fluorescens and yeast (1,3).

The ingestion of food contaminated with pathogens can lead to infections and foodborne illnesses. Some common symptoms associated with foodborne illnesses are diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps and flu-like symptoms, such as headache and fever (4).

In addition, there are significant losses of vitamins during the storage of broccoli. As reported in studies, the vitamin C was reduced over 20% after 5 days when broccoli was stored at 1°C (2).

How to tell if broccoli has gone bad?

To tell if broccoli has gone bad, you should be aware of the changes in the color, texture and odor of this vegetable. 

Chemical and microbial deteriorations lead to noticeable changes in the broccoli during storage, as broccoli is considered a highly perishable food item. Some signs that broccoli has gone bad are (1,2,3,5):


The usual color of broccoli is green to light green and turns yellow with time, due to the loss of chlorophyll, indicating the senescence of the vegetable. Yellow broccoli may still be good to eat, in the case of late harvest, which is also noticed by the opening of the florets, if there are no signs indicating microbial spoilage, such as soft rot. 


Loss of firmness is one of the first changes noticeable in the texture indicating that the broccoli is no longer fresh. During storage, there is a considerable loss of moisture with consequent reduction of weight. With time, the plant tissue softens due to enzymatic action. In addition, the bacteria Pseudomonas can cause soft rot.


The odor of the broccoli can change to slight to very strong and generate off-odors. With time, the sulfur-containing compounds found in broccoli, which give the vegetable its remarkable health properties, suffer chemical changes and generate volatile sulfur compounds related to off-odors.

What is the shelf life of broccoli?

The shelf life of broccoli is 3 to 5 days when stored in the refrigerator and about 10 to 12 months when stored in the freezer. Due to its high perishable condition, broccoli should not be stored at room temperature (4).

The shelf life of broccoli depends on many factors, including the maturity of the broccoli when harvested, the initial microbial contamination, as vegetables can be contaminated on the field by the irrigation water, by handling or transportation, the storage conditions and packaging material (1,2).

The use of modified atmosphere packaging can extend the shelf life of broccoli, according to studies, to a shelf life of a week.

How to store broccoli?

To store broccoli, keep it in the original packaging or in a plastic bag and place it in the refrigerator. Do not wash the broccoli till you intend to consume it, as the increased moisture can lead to accelerated deterioration (6).

It is possible to freeze broccoli: cut the broccoli florets and wash them properly. Blanch the broccoli florets in boiling water for a few minutes. Drain and cool. Pack in freezing bags, removing the air from inside. Freeze for 12 months. 

Other FAQs about Broccoli that you may be interested in.

Can bunnies eat broccoli?

Are broccoli stems edible?

How long can cooked broccoli stay in the fridge?


In this article, we answered the question, “What happens if you eat bad broccoli?” and discussed the risks of eating bad broccoli, how to know if broccoli is bad and how to prevent broccoli from going bad.  


  1. Dallaire, R., et al. Monitoring the microbial populations and temperatures of fresh broccoli from harvest to retail display. J food protect, 2006, 69, 1118-1125. 
  2. Padaga, Masdiana, et al. Microbial species associated with different sections of broccoli harvested from three regions in Australia. Int j food microbiol, 2000, 60, 15-24. 
  3. Carvalho, Paulo de Tarso, and Edmar Clemente. The influence of the broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. itálica) fill weight on postharvest quality. Food Science Technology, 2004, 24,: 646-651. 
  4. Foodborne illness and disease. Food and Drug Administration.
  5. Marcinkowska, M.A.; Jeleń, H.H. Role of Sulfur Compounds in Vegetable and Mushroom Aroma. Molecules 2022, 27, 6116. 
  6. Huyck, L. Fresh: Using, Storing, and Preserving Broccoli. 2014. Michigan State University.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!