What happens if you eat bad ground beef?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “What happens if you eat bad ground beef?”. We will elaborate on the side effects of eating bad ground beef and some ways to identify bad ground beef. 

What happens if you eat bad ground beef?

If you eat bad ground beef, you may get sick. Bad ground beef is harmful to eat as it may have infectious bacteria, which can result in food poisoning. The person may experience fever, vomiting, stomach pain, and bloody diarrhea.

Ground beef may go bad because of bacterial contamination if it has not been cooked properly, spoiled with raw meat juice or kept out at room temperature for some hours. Even the strong acidic juice in our stomach does not destroy harmful microorganisms, which will grow inside our bodies at a high pace.

Though the immune systems of most individuals will work to free their bodies of the pathogenic bacteria with limited or no long-term side effects, it often induces the not-so-pleasant symptoms of foodborne illness.

What causes the ground beef to go bad?

As grinding the beef exposes most of its surface to air, spoilage organisms are more prone to attaching it. Therefore, it spoils more quickly in comparison to other larger cuts.

It may be both affected by spoilage and pathogenic bacteria.

Though spoilage bacteria can not cause any harm to the consumer, it may destroy the quality of beef with a bad odor and flavor.

On the contrary, pathogenic bacteria are harmful, and can cause foodborne illness. Moreover, spoiled beef is more likely to have them.

Thus, even though spoilage bacteria will not make you ill, bad ground beef should always be discarded to avoid the consumption of pathogenic bacteria.

What are the symptoms of Foodborne Illness?

Most bacteria induce gastrointestinal pain. However, the symptoms may differ in intensity with the species swallowed and the amount of bad ground beef consumed. Symptoms may include nausea, abdominal discomfort, headache, which may result in chills, fever, vomiting and diarrhea.

Often C. jejuni and L. monocytogenes will also result in body aches and swollen lymph glands. In almost all patients, there is mild to severe tiredness. 

These symptoms are rarely fatal, but in infants, the elderly and people with weakened immunity. The most typical yet serious risk is dehydration induced by diarrhea and vomiting.

Escherichia coli in bad ground beef is particularly of concern. It can cause severe infection or death, specifically in children and aged people.

How soon a person experiences symptoms of consuming bad ground beef varies with the type of bacteria the ground beef was contaminated with. 

For instance, Staph aureus can cause symptoms one hour after consumption. Salmonella can cause illness in almost 72 hours.

Bacteria with a longer incubation period, like Listeria monocytogenes, might not show symptoms up to one month. 

How to know if the ground beef has gone bad?

Check the color

Ground beef can alter its color because of temperature, light, microbial growth, and exposure to oxygen.

Fresh, raw ground beef has a red color due to the presence of oxyhemoglobin. 

The inside of raw ground beef can be grayish brown due to decreased exposure to oxygen. This does not indicate bad beef.

You should discard any ground beef that has changed to either brown or gray color on the exterior, as this demonstrates that it has started to spoil.

Examine the texture

Fresh ground beef has a moderately firm texture. 

While a sticky or slimy beef indicates the presence of spoilage microorganisms, which should be discarded right away.

Smell for any bad odor

Smelling the beef is the most effortless way to determine whether the ground beef has gone bad. This method works for both raw and cooked ground beef.

Although the smell of fresh ground beef is not easily detectable, bad beef has a pungent, putrid smell. Once it spoils, it is not safe to consume.

The smell becomes bad due to the rapid multiplication of spoilage bacteria which may also alter the flavor.

Check the expiry date

An expiry date is an additional guideline for determining if the ground beef is good to eat. It describes when the beef is likely to start spoiling. Before this date, the ground beef will have the best taste and quality.

Ground beef should not be consumed beyond its expiry date unless it has been kept in a freezer, in which case it can remain safe for 4 months.

Ensure to thoroughly go through the product description when purchasing ground beef.

Other FAQs about Beef that you may be interested in.

Can you eat beef when it turns brown?

What is Korean beef called?

What is 70/30 ground beef?


In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “What happens if you eat bad ground beef?”. We have further elaborated on the side effects of eating bad ground beef and some ways to identify bad ground beef. 



Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.