What happens if you eat expired pasta sauce? (+3 Tips)

In this article, we will answer the question “What happens if you eat expired pasta sauce?”, and how to store pasta sauce?

What happens if you eat expired pasta sauce?

Eating expired pasta sauce can cause various health issues, including foodborne illnesses and intoxication by metal ions in the short term and inflammatory diseases in the long term (1,2,3).

It is possible that nothing happens, as the “best-by” date only estimates the shelf life of the product and its consumption past this date is safe in most of the cases (4).

Can you eat expired pasta sauce?

Yes, you can eat expired pasta sauce. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Most products, whey were properly stored and handled, are still safe to consume after the expiration date, with an exception of infant formula, unless there are notable signs of spoilage (4).

Spoiled foods, including pasta sauce, manifest their unsafe condition through alterations of odor, appearance, color, texture, the formation of gas (bloating of packaging or release of gas when packaging is opened), formation of slime on the surface, growth of mold and other signs (5).

However, you should not consume the sauce if you suspect that it is spoiled. In addition, be aware that there are risks related to consuming such expired foods, which we will discuss in the following sections of this article.

What are the possible health risks when eating expired pasta sauce?

The possible health risks to consider when you decide to eat expired pasta sauce are the following:

Foodborne illnesses: 

Even though canned food products usually have extended shelf life, they are not free from contamination by microorganisms. A study showed that many canned products contained high levels of fungal contaminants and toxins produced by these fungi, including Aspergillus and Penicillium, which are able to cause foodborne illnesses. 

Fungal toxins are capable of causing intestinal discomforts, such as diarrhea and cramping, allergic reactions, negative effects on the immune system, DNA alterations and cancer (1).

The longer the product is stored, the greater are the risks of containing toxins produced by fungal activity during storage.

Intoxication by heavy metals:

During prolonged storage, metal ions in canned foods can migrate from the can to the food, leading to a high concentration of these metal ions in the food composition. The accumulated ingesting these heavy metals can cause skin irritation, damage to the liver, kidney, circulatory and nerve tissues (2).

Severe exposure to such heavy metals can lead to poisoning and cause neurological diseases. Storing canned foods, such as tomato products and sauces in improper conditions, such as high temperatures and exposure to light may accelerate the leaching of such heavy metals from the cans.

The acidic characteristic of the sauce also favors this leaching process, so consuming expired sauces increases the risk of poisoning. Heavy metals such as aluminum, cadmium, arsenium and mercury were found in expired canned tomato products, as reported by a study. 

Inflammatory diseases:

Food contamination is not the only possibility of food spoiling. Spoilage is also caused by intrinsic mechanisms, such as the deterioration of the compounds present in food. 

Chemical and enzymatic reactions occur during storage and may lead to lipid oxidation and protein denaturation, compromising the sensory properties, such as color, aroma and taste. 

The consumption of oxidized fatty acids can lead to diseases, such as atherosclerosis, cancer, and inflammatory diseases. The prevalence of compounds resulting from the lipid oxidation increases during prolonged storage of food containing fats (3).

Therefore, even if your expired sauce is still considered safe to consume, it is best to avoid consuming it frequently.

What is the shelf life of pasta sauce? 

The estimated shelf lives of different unopened and opened pasta sauces are given below (6):   

ProductShelf life unopened at room temperatureShelf life opened in the refrigerator
Spaghetti sauce in the jar18 months4 days
Canned tomato sauce 12-18 months5-7 days
Homemade tomato sauce canned9-12 months3-5 days
Pasta sauceBest-by date3-5 days
Mayonnaise sauce3-6 months2 months
Salsa sauce12 months1 months

The shelf-life of the pasta sauce depends on its base ingredients. Tomato-based pasta sauces will generally keep for longer due to the acidity of the tomatoes. If the tomato-based sauce contains meat, consume it within 2-3 days of refrigeration as the meat will spoil quicker than the tomato sauce. 

How to store pasta sauce?

Shelf stable canned pasta sauce or pasta sauce in the jar can be stored at room temperature, in clean and cool places away from heat sources (such as electric machines) and away from sunlight (7). 

After opening the can or jar, transfer the store-bought sauce to an air-tight glass container or food plastic container. The same applies to a homemade pasta sauce. 

If you want to extend the shelf-life beyond weeks, it is possible to freeze the sauce. Transfer the sauce to a heavy-duty freezer bag or an air-tight freezable container and keep it in the freezer for up to 2 months for best results (8).

How to tell if the pasta sauce is bad?

To identify that pasta sauce has gone bad, you should be aware of the possible signs indicating spoilage of the sauce. As mentioned earlier in the article, any changes in the color, texture, odor and any spot suggesting the development of mold is a possible indication of spoilage (1,5,8).

Possible signs of spoilage are also:

  • If the texture of the sauce becomes watery and there is a visible phase separation (not due to freeze-thawing process)
  • The formation of slime on the surface
  • The release of gas when the packaging or container is opened
  • Off-odors, such as rancid or sour

Other FAQs about Sauces which you may be interested in.

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In this article, we answered the question “What happens if you eat expired pasta sauce?”, and how to store pasta sauce?


  1. Taiwo, A. A. Evaluation of Microbiological Quality in Expired and Non-expired Dairy Canned Food Products Sold from Samaru Market, Zaria, Northwest Nigeria. Clin Immunol Infect Dis, 2020, 4, 3.  
  2. Adams, Itodo U., and Itodo U. Happiness. Quantitative specification of potentially toxic metals in expired canned tomatoes found in village markets. Nat. Sci, 2010, 8, 54-58.  
  3. Vieira, Samantha A., Guodong Zhang, and Eric A. Decker. Biological implications of lipid oxidation products. J Am Oil Chem Soc, 2017, 94, 339-351.  
  4. Food Product dating. United States Department of Agriculture.
  5. Rawat, Seema. Food Spoilage: Microorganisms and their prevention. Asian j plant sci Res, 2015, 5, 47-56.
  6. FoodKeeper. United States Department of Agriculture.
  7. Van Laanen, Peggy. Safe home food storage. Texas FARMER Collection. 2002.
  8. Calligaris, S., P. Falcone, and Monica Anese. Color changes of tomato purees during storage at freezing temperatures. J Food Sci, 2002, 67, 2432-2435.

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