What happens if you eat expired deli meat?

In this short article, we will provide an answer to the question “what happens if you eat expired deli meat?”. Moreover, we will discuss the health consequences of eating expired deli meat and the storage guidelines to avoid its spoilage.


What happens if you eat expired deli meat?

Eating expired deli meat can put you at risk of foodborne illnesses (1). When deli meat passes its expiration date, harmful microorganisms such as Listeria monocytogenes can multiply, leading to potential health hazards (2).

You may experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever after eating expired deli meat (3).

While proper cooking can kill some harmful microorganisms, it may not eliminate all potential risks associated with expired deli meat. Even if you cook the meat thoroughly, there could still be a risk of consuming toxins produced by the spoilage microorganisms (4-5).

The expiration date on your deli meat packaging indicates the point at which the manufacturer can no longer guarantee the safety and quality of the product. So, consuming expired deli meat should be always avoided to maintain food safety .

To prevent the risk of foodborne illnesses, you should practice good food safety habits (6). This includes proper refrigeration of deli meat, following storage instructions, checking expiration dates, and discarding any expired or suspicious-looking products to safeguard your health.

What are the health risks of eating expired deli meat?

Eating expired deli meat increases the risk of foodborne illnesses. When deli meat surpasses its expiration date, harmful bacteria can proliferate, leading to different potential health hazards (5).

After eating expired deli meat you may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever (3). These symptoms can be particularly severe in individuals with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, and the elderly (7).

You should never eat expired deli meat as it can harbor bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause a serious infection called listeriosis (2). 

Listeriosis can lead to more severe symptoms, including muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and even convulsions in some cases (8).

What should you do if you accidentally eat expired deli meat?

If you accidentally eat expired deli meat, the first step is to assess your symptoms.It is important to remember that not all cases of consuming expired deli meat will result in immediate illness. 

Our bodies have natural defense mechanisms that can sometimes fight off the bacteria present in the expired meat. However, if you experience any concerning symptoms or belong to a high-risk group as mentioned above, it is advisable to seek medical attention promptly.

Contact your healthcare provider and inform them about your situation. They will be able to evaluate your symptoms, provide appropriate guidance, and determine if any medical intervention is necessary.

In the meantime, it is crucial to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. This helps prevent dehydration, especially if you are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting (9).

To prevent future incidents, avoid consuming any more of the expired deli meat and practice proper food safety measures (6). 

What are the signs of spoilage in expired deli meat?

One of the signs of spoilage in expired deli meat is a noticeable change in color. If your deli meat appears discolored, such as turning gray, greenish, or showing signs of unusual discoloration, it may indicate spoilage.

Another sign to look for is an unpleasant odor. Expired deli meat can develop a strong, sour, or putrid smell that is distinct from its usual aroma. If the meat emits an off-putting odor, it is likely spoiled and should be discarded.

Texture changes can also indicate spoilage. If the deli meat feels slimy, excessively soft, or sticky to the touch, it may be a sign that bacteria or other microorganisms have multiplied, leading to spoilage.

Mold growth is a clear indicator of spoilage. If you notice any visible mold on the deli meat, it should be discarded immediately. Mold can produce toxins that are harmful to consume (10).

You should be aware that even if there are no obvious signs of spoilage, consuming expired deli meat can still pose risks due to the potential presence of harmful microorganisms.

So, to ensure food safety, it is always recommended to adhere to the expiration dates indicated on deli meat packaging and discard any meat that has passed its expiration date, even if there are no apparent signs of spoilage. 

Remember: It is always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to consuming expired perishable products.

How to properly store deli meat?

It is recommended to store deli meat in its original packaging or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to maintain its quality and prevent exposure to air and contaminants.

Avoid leaving deli meat at room temperature for an extended period. It should be refrigerated promptly after purchase or use.

Deli meat should be stored separately from other raw or cooked foods to prevent cross-contamination. Place it on a shelf or drawer in the refrigerator away from raw meats, poultry, seafood, and other potentially hazardous foods.

It is best to consume deli meat within a few days of purchase for optimal freshness. The specific expiration period may vary depending on the type of deli meat and the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Once the deli meat package is opened, it is advisable to consume it within 3 to 4 days to ensure its quality and minimize the risk of bacterial growth. If you are unable to consume the deli meat within the recommended time frame, you can consider freezing it.

Is it possible to store lunch meat in the freezer?

Lunchmeat freezing is entirely up to the individual. If you consult with experts in the meat industry, they will advise you against freezing the meat since it will alter the flavor and texture of the flesh. When it comes to freezing lunch meat, on the other hand, some people may find it beneficial.

Lunchmeat should be frozen in an airtight bag. Additionally, cut small amounts of deli meat into sandwich-sized pieces and place them between sheets of wax paper to assist in thawing.

When thawing frozen deli meat, do so in the refrigerator or using the defrost function in the microwave. Avoid thawing at room temperature, as it promotes bacterial growth.


In this short article, we provided an answer to the question “what happens if you eat expired deli meat?”. Moreover, we discussed the health consequences of eating expired deli meat and the storage guidelines to avoid its spoilage.


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