What happens If you eat expired jerky? (+5 Ways to preserve)

In this article, we will answer the question “What happens If you eat expired jerky?”. Moreover, we will discuss how to tell if your jerky has gone bad, the health risks of eating expired jerky and How to properly handle your jerky to avoid spoilage.  

What happens If you eat expired jerky?

If you eat expired jerky, there is a possibility of experiencing foodborne illness or food poisoning (1-4). 

Jerky is a dried meat product that has a longer shelf life compared to fresh meat, but it can still go bad if not stored properly or kept beyond its expiration date. 

Eating expired jerky can expose you to harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella or Listeria, which can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever (3, 5-7). 

It is therefore essential to check the expiration date and always inspect your jerky for any signs of spoilage before consuming it to avoid potential health risks.

What are the health risks of eating expired jerky?

Eating expired jerky can pose several health risks due to the potential growth of harmful bacteria. Here, we summarize some specific health risks associated with consuming expired jerky:

  1. Foodborne Illness: Expired jerky may contain pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella, Listeria, or E. coli, which can cause food poisoning (3-4,7). 

These bacteria can multiply over time, especially if the jerky has not been stored properly, leading to gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever (5).

  1. Bacterial Infections: Some bacteria, such as Clostridium botulinum, can produce toxins that cause severe illness (8). 

If the expired jerky is contaminated with these bacteria, it can lead to botulism, a potentially life-threatening condition characterized by muscle weakness, difficulty swallowing, blurred vision, and respiratory problems (8).

  1. Mold Toxicity: If the expired jerky has developed mold growth, consuming it can lead to mycotoxin poisoning (9). 

Mycotoxins are toxic substances produced by certain types of molds and can cause various health issues, depending on the specific toxin present. Symptoms may include gastrointestinal problems, allergic reactions, or even organ damage in severe cases (9).

To ensure your safety, you should always adhere to food safety guidelines, including checking expiration dates, inspecting the product for signs of spoilage, and properly storing jerky to prevent bacterial growth. 

When in doubt, we recommend you to discard your expired jerky rather than consuming it. Remember: Your safety comes first!

What should you do if you accidentally eat expired jerky?

If you accidentally eat expired jerky, we recommend you to:

  • Evaluate the situation: Assess whether you experienced any immediate adverse reactions or symptoms after consuming the expired jerky.
  • Discontinue consumption: Stop eating the expired jerky immediately to prevent further exposure to potentially harmful bacteria or toxins.
  • Monitor your symptoms: Keep a close eye on any changes or development of symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or fever (5). If you experience severe symptoms or they persist, seek medical attention.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water, to stay hydrated and help flush out any toxins (10).
  • Preserve evidence: If you suspect that the expired jerky caused your illness, consider preserving a sample or taking a photo of the product’s packaging and expiration date for reference if needed.
  • Prevent further incidents: Practice proper food safety measures in the future, such as checking expiration dates, storing food correctly, and being mindful of signs of spoilage.

How to tell If the beef jerky has gone bad?

Here, we summarize some key signs that can help you to determine if your beef jerky has gone bad:

  1. Off odor: If the jerky has a strong, unpleasant, or sour smell that is different from its usual aroma, it may be an indication of spoilage.
  1. Mold growth: Visible mold on the jerky is a clear sign of spoilage. Discard the product if you notice any fuzzy patches, discoloration, or unusual growth.
  1. Texture changes: Fresh beef jerky has a dry, chewy texture. If the jerky feels excessively soft, slimy, or sticky, it may have become spoiled.
  1. Rancid or sour taste: If the jerky tastes significantly different from its usual flavor, has a rancid or sour taste, or leaves an unpleasant aftertaste, it is likely spoiled.
  1. Excessive moisture or oiliness: If you observe excessive moisture or oiliness on the surface of the jerky, it could be a sign of spoilage.
  1. Changes in appearance: Look for any visible signs of discoloration, such as a faded or darkened color. Additionally, if the jerky appears unusually dull or has a film-like coating, it may have gone bad.

You should be aware that these indicators may vary depending on the specific type and brand of jerky, so you should always be careful and check your jerky prior consumption.

How long does beef jerky last?

The shelf life of beef jerky can vary depending on several factors, including the packaging, storage conditions, and the presence of preservatives (11).

Most commercially packaged beef jerky will have a printed expiration date or a “best by” date on the packaging. If stored properly, unopened beef jerky can typically last several months to a year past the printed date.

Homemade jerky tends to have a shorter shelf life compared to commercially packaged options. When stored in an airtight container or vacuum-sealed, homemade beef jerky can last for about 1 to 2 months at room temperature.

Once you open a package of beef jerky, its shelf life will be shorter than when it was sealed. Proper storage and handling become crucial. Opened beef jerky can last for about 1 to 2 weeks when stored in a cool, dry place or refrigerated.

Beef jerky that contains preservatives, such as sodium nitrite or sodium erythorbate, tends to have an extended shelf life. These preservatives help inhibit bacterial growth and maintain the quality of the jerky for a longer period.

You should be aware that these are general estimates, and the actual shelf life can vary as previously mentioned. 

How to extend the shelf-life of beef jerky?

To extend the shelf life of your beef jerky, you can follow the next tips that we summarize for you:

  • Proper packaging: Store beef jerky in airtight containers or vacuum-sealed bags to prevent exposure to air and moisture, which can accelerate spoilage. This helps maintain its quality and prolong shelf life.
  • Keep it cool and dry: Store beef jerky in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Excessive heat and humidity can promote bacterial growth and spoilage. A pantry or cupboard is a suitable location.
  • Avoid contact with moisture: Moisture can lead to mold growth and spoilage. Ensure the beef jerky is kept dry at all times. If you live in a humid environment, consider using moisture-absorbing packets or silica gel packs to help absorb excess moisture.
  • Minimize exposure to air: Oxygen can degrade the quality of beef jerky and promote the growth of bacteria. Whenever possible, squeeze out excess air from the packaging before resealing it to minimize oxidation.
  • Use desiccants: Adding desiccant packets, such as silica gel or oxygen absorbers, to the packaging can help absorb moisture and maintain freshness.
  • Freeze for long-term storage: If you want to extend the shelf life of beef jerky even further, you can freeze it. Place the jerky in airtight freezer bags or vacuum-sealed bags, and store it in the freezer. Frozen beef jerky can last several months to a year.

Remember that it is very important that you always check your jerky for any signs of spoilage, even if you have followed these storage tips.


In this article, we answered the question “What happens If you eat expired jerky?”. Moreover, we discussed how to tell if your jerky has gone bad, the health risks of eating expired jerky and How to properly handle your jerky to avoid spoilage.


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