What happens If you eat expired salad dressing? (+3 Tips)

In this article, we will answer the question “What happens If you eat expired salad dressing?”. Moreover, we will discuss the health consequences of eating expired salad dressing, how to detect spoiled salad dressing and how to store and handle your salad dressing to avoid its spoilage.

What happens If you eat expired salad dressing?

If you eat expired salad dressing, there is a possibility of experiencing foodborne illness or food poisoning (1-3). 

Salad dressings typically contain ingredients like oil, vinegar, herbs, and sometimes dairy products. When salad dressing expires, harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella or E. coli, may start growing, leading to potential health risks (3-4). 

Consuming expired salad dressing can cause symptoms like stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting (5). It is therefore essential to check the expiration date and discard any expired salad dressings to ensure food safety and prevent potential health complications.

What are the health risks of eating expired salad dressing?

Eating expired salad dressing can pose several health risks due to the potential growth of harmful microorganisms (1-3), for example:

  • Bacterial contamination: Expired salad dressings can become a breeding ground for bacteria, such as Salmonella, E. coli, or Listeria, which can cause food poisoning and lead to severe gastrointestinal issues (2,4,6).
  • Foodborne illnesses: Consuming expired salad dressing increases the risk of foodborne illnesses, which can result in symptoms like stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and in severe cases, dehydration or hospitalization (7).
  • Reduced nutritional value: Over time, the quality and nutritional value of salad dressings deteriorate. Expired dressings may have lower levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which can impact the overall nutritional benefits of your meal.
  • Allergic reactions: Expired salad dressings may contain ingredients that have degraded or undergone chemical changes, increasing the likelihood of triggering allergic reactions in individuals with specific food allergies or sensitivities (8).

Compromised immune system: If you have a weakened immune system or are more susceptible to infections, consuming expired salad dressing can further compromise your body’s ability to fight off harmful bacteria, leading to more severe health consequences.

Overall, it is essential to be mindful of expiration dates and practice proper food safety measures to minimize the health risks associated with consuming expired salad dressing.

What should you do if you accidentally eat expired salad dressing?

If you accidentally consume expired salad dressing, you can follow the next recommendations:

  1. First, check for any immediate symptoms of food poisoning or allergic reactions (5). If you experience severe symptoms like persistent vomiting, high fever, or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately.
  1. For mild symptoms, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and rest (9). 
  1. If possible, try to identify the specific expiration date and type of salad dressing you consumed to inform healthcare professionals if needed.

It is crucial to avoid consuming any more of your expired salad dressing and to dispose of it properly to prevent further health risks.

How to tell If the salad dressing has gone bad?

The signs of spoilage in expired salad dressing can vary depending on the type of dressing and its specific ingredients (3). If you want to determine if your salad dressing has gone bad, you should check the next signs:

  1. Unpleasant odor: One of the most noticeable signs of spoilage is a foul or rancid smell coming from the salad dressing. If it smells off, sour, or has an unusual odor, it is likely no longer safe to consume.
  1. Change in texture: Expired salad dressings may undergo changes in texture, such as becoming thicker, curdled, or separated. If the dressing appears lumpy, chunky, or has an inconsistent texture, it is a sign of potential spoilage.
  1. Mold growth: If you observe any mold growth on the surface or inside the salad dressing container, it is a clear indication that harmful microorganisms have contaminated the product, rendering it unsafe to eat (10).
  1. Discoloration: Expired salad dressings may undergo color changes. If you notice significant discoloration, such as a darkening or an unusual hue, it could be a sign of spoilage.
  1. Expiration date: Checking the expiration date is an essential indicator of potential spoilage. If the salad dressing has passed its expiration date, it is generally best to discard it, as the quality and safety may have been compromised.

It is important to note that these signs may vary based on the specific type of salad dressing and its ingredients. So, if you notice any of these signs, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid consuming your expired salad dressing to prevent the risk of foodborne illness.

How to store salad dressings?

Salad dressings either come in ready-to-use form or in the dry-mix form. The dry mix type salad dressings use any liquid in the form of water or oil to reconstitute them. 

The ready-to-use salad dressings are sold either refrigerated or unrefrigerated. The ones sold in the refrigerated section have a lower amount of preservatives added. As long as the dry-mix is concerned, the rule of thumb is to keep it stored somewhere dark, cool, and dry. 

A spice drawer is a good storage area. Once the package is opened, make sure the mix is sealed tightly between uses. Bottled salad dressings that you purchase from the unrefrigerated section can be kept in the pantry or the kitchen cabinet as long as unopened. 

The general rule is to keep the bottle somewhere dry, dark, and cool away from heat sources like direct sunlight and stovetop. Once the bottle is opened, It should always be stored in the fridge. 

Make sure you screw the top tightly between uses. Bottled refrigerated salad dressings are meant to be kept in the fridge whether opened or unopened. Similarly, homemade salad dressings should be stored in the fridge. 

Freezing salad dressings is a bad idea as the freezing temperature negatively impacts the quality of the dressing after thawing. However, you can keep meat or fish marinated with the salad dressing in the freezer. 

Avoid finger dipping or using used spoons in the bottle to take out some dressing. Similarly, do not pour the leftover dressing back into the bottle. Clean the rim of the bottle to keep the dressing from drying and flaking in that area.

How long can you keep salad in the fridge?

You can keep your salad in the fridge for 3-5 days on average. The shelf-life of salad in the fridge depends largely on the ingredients and the type of salad. If the salad is dressed, it will not last longer if stored incorrectly (2-3). 

Similarly, you need to consider whether or not the salad contains meat, green leafy vegetables, or fruits.


In this article, we answered the question “What happens If you eat expired salad dressing?”. Moreover, we discussed the health consequences of eating expired salad dressing, how to detect spoiled salad dressing and how to store and handle your salad dressing to avoid its spoilage.


1. Kurtzman CP, Rogers R, Hesseltine CW. Microbiological Spoilage of Mayonnaise and Salad Dressings. Appl Microbiol [Internet]. 1971 May [cited 2023 Jun 25];21(5):870–4. Available from: https://journals.asm.org/doi/abs/10.1128/am.21.5.870-874.1971 

2. Smittle RB. Microbiology of Mayonnaise and Salad Dressing: A Review. J Food Prot [Internet]. 1977 Jun 1 [cited 2023 Jun 25];40(6):415–22. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0362028X23033057 

3. Osaili TM, Hasan F, Al-Nabulsi AA, Olaimat AN, Ayyash M, Obaid RS, et al. A worldwide review of illness outbreaks involving mixed salads/dressings and factors influencing product safety and shelf life. Food Microbiol [Internet]. 2023 Jun 1 [cited 2023 Jun 25];112:104238. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0740002023000254 

4. Smittle RB. Microbiological Safety of Mayonnaise, Salad Dressings, and Sauces Produced in the United States: A Review. J Food Prot [Internet]. 2000 Aug 1 [cited 2023 Jun 25];63(8):1144–53. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0362028X22006184 

5. Milaciu M V, Ciumărnean L, Orășan OH, Para I, Alexescu T, Negrean V. Semiology of food poisoning. Int J Bioflux Soc [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2023 May 10];8(2):108–13. Available from: http://hvm.bioflux.com.ro/docs/2015.108-113.pdf 

6. Skalina L, Nikolajeva V. Growth potential of Listeria monocytogenes strains in mixed ready-to-eat salads. Int J Food Microbiol [Internet]. 2010 Dec 15 [cited 2023 Jun 25];144(2):317–21. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168160510005532 

7. Bintsis T. Foodborne pathogens. AIMS Microbiol [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2023 May 16];3(3):529. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6604998/ 

8. Patel P, Komorowski AS, Mack DP. An allergist’s approach to food poisoning. Ann Allergy, Asthma Immunol [Internet]. 2023 Apr 1 [cited 2023 May 5];130(4):444–51. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36334721/ 

9. McRobert GR. THE TREATMENT OF BACTERIAL FOOD POISONING. Br Med J [Internet]. 1934 Aug 8 [cited 2023 May 10];2(3841):304. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2445530/ 

10. Sperber WH. Microbiological Spoilage of Acidified Specialty Products. Compend Microbiol Spoilage Foods Beverages [Internet]. 2009 [cited 2023 Jun 25];285–99. Available from: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4419-0826-1_10 

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!