What happens if you eat expired bread?

In this short article, we will answer the question “what happens if you eat expired bread?” and discuss how to identify spoiled bread, and the risks of eating spoiled bread.

What happens if you eat expired bread?

If you eat expired bread, it is possible that nothing unusual happens. However, it is also possible that eating expired bread may lead to food poisoning. This mostly depends on the conditions of the bread, as it is possible to eat bread after its expiration date (6).

Expired bread does not necessarily mean spoiled bread. However, the most common type of spoilage, which is fungal growth and production of toxins by these fungi, and the ingestion of mycotoxins may cause negative impact on health.

The most common bread molds are Rhizopus, Penicillium, Aspergillus, Mucor, and Fusarium. In addition, yeast, such as Saccharomycopsis fibuligera is also found in breads and baked goods, as well as bacteria, such as Bacillus subtilis (4).

Mycotoxins can lead to cell mutations. In addition, consuming large quantities of some mycotoxins, such as aflatoxin, may also increase your risk of getting certain kinds of cancer (8).

Can you eat expired bread? 

Yes, you can eat bread that has passed its mentioned expiry date, when kept under proper storage conditions, except when the bread presents signs of spoilage (6). 

This is because the date mentioned on the package is just a rough estimate for when the bread is expected to go stale. If the bread is stale, you can use it to make toasts, bread pudding and stuffing and other recipes (7).

How to know if bread is spoiled?

To know if bread is spoiled, observe the appearance, aroma and texture of the bread and try to identify the possible signs of spoilage in bread. These are (1,2,3,4):

The formation of colored colonies or spots on the bread is a possible indication that mold is present. The colonies can be white, green or black and form mycelia, which are fuzzy or fluffy cotton-like formations. 

Generation of off-odors: different off-odors may be formed when bread is spoiled, including formation of odors such as rancid, sour or musty, fruity, depending on the type of spoilage and composition of the bread. 

Fungal growth results in the off-odors such as musty and earthy, while alcoholic and sour may indicate the presence of yeasts. When lipids are present in the bread, off-odors can occur due to the oxidation of lipids and generation of aldehydes, ketones and alcohols which characterize rancidity. 

A sticky ropy texture is the possible result of yeast or mold development. The texture of ropy bread resembles a sponge. 

Staling, hardening: the loss of texture, leading to increased firmness of the crumb and loss of crispness of the crust happen due to phenomenon called retrogradation and moisture migration, where the starch molecules are reorganized and change the structure in addition to the water diffusion within the bread.

What is the shelf-life of bread?

The shelf life of bread depends mainly if the bread is a homemade bread or a commercially packed bread. The addition of preservatives and other additives, such as moisture retainers (hydrocolloids) and the use of modified packaging materials are some of the resources used by the food industry to improve the shelf life of bread and baked goods (1,2,4).

As a result, commercially packed bread can be stored at room temperature for over two weeks, as shown in the table below. On the other hand homemade breads should be eaten within a few days.

The following table shows the estimated shelf-life of different types of bread under different storage conditions (5).

In the pantryIn the fridgeIn the freezer
Commercial breads and baked goods14-18 days 2-3 weeks 3-5 months
Homemade white bread 3-5 days 2-3 months 3 months 
Homemade whole bread3-5 daysNot recommended3 months
Commercial whole bread3-5 daysNot recommended3 months

How to store bread?

To store bread, you should protect it from the external environment and from heat, as well as from sunlight. These factors may decrease the shelf life of bread. 

Wrap the bread with a material that has a good moisture and oxygen barrier or in a container and place it on the pantry or in the freezer. The refrigerator is not a recommended place to store bread (1). 

Other FAQs about Bread that you may be interested in.

Can you eat naan bread without cooking it?

Can you eat partially baked bread without cooking?

Can you steam buns at home?


In this short article, we answered the question “what happens if you eat expired bread?” and discussed how to identify spoiled bread, and the risks of eating spoiled bread.


  1. Kilcast, David, and Persis Subramaniam. The Stability and Shelf-Life of Food.  Woodhead Publishing Limited. 2000. 
  2. Mihaly Cozmuta, Anca, et al. Active packaging system based on Ag/TiO2 nanocomposite used for extending the shelf life of bread. Chemical and microbiological investigations. Packaging Technol Sci, 2015, 28, 271-284.
  3. Osuna, Mariana B., et al. Proximal composition, sensorial properties and effect of ascorbic acid and α-tocopherol on oxidative stability of bread made with whole flours and vegetable oils. LWT, 2018, 98, 54-61.
  4. Rahman M, Islam R, Hasan S, Zzaman W, Rana MR, Ahmed S, et al. A Comprehensive Review on Bio-Preservation of Bread: An Approach to Adopt Wholesome Strategies. Foods [Internet] 2022, 11, 319
  5. FSIS’ FoodKeeper. US Department of Agriculture.
  6. Food product dating. United States Department of Agriculture. 
  7. Garden-Robinson, J. Pinchin’ Pennies in the Kitchen: 4 Ways to Use Day-old Bread. North Dakota State University.
  8. Ekwomadu T, Mwanza M, Musekiwa A. Mycotoxin-Linked Mutations and Cancer Risk: A Global Health Issue. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2022, 24, 7754.