What happens If you eat expired sauce?

In this article, we will answer the question “What happens If you eat expired sauce?”. Moreover, we will discuss the shelf life of different types of sauce, how to identify spoiled sauce and how to handle your sauce to prevent spoilage.

What happens If you eat expired sauce?

Eating expired sauce can potentially pose health risks depending on the type of sauce and how long it has been expired.

Expired sauce, especially those that are perishable or contain dairy or meat products, can promote the growth of bacteria, including harmful ones like Salmonella, E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens, Bacillus cereus, and Listeria monocytogenes (1-2). 

Thus, consuming contaminated sauce can lead to foodborne illnesses, resulting in symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and in severe cases, dehydration or other complications (3-4).

Some types of sauce, such as tomato-based or vinegar-based ones, may develop mold growth when expired. Consuming moldy sauce can potentially lead to allergic reactions, respiratory problems, or even mycotoxin poisoning, depending on the type of mold present (5).

Finally, the texture and consistency of your source may change over the time. While this does not necessarily mean that it is not unsafe to consume, it may not provide an enjoyable eating experience when it is expired and you should avoid consuming expired sauce.

The specific risks associated with eating expired sauce can vary depending on the ingredients, preparation methods, storage conditions, and the duration of expiration. We recommend you to  always follow proper food storage guidelines, checking expiration dates and discarding any expired products.

Remember that if you are unsure about the safety of a particular sauce, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid consuming it.

What are the signs of spoilage in expired sauce?

The signs of spoilage in expired sauce can vary depending on the type of sauce and its ingredients. Here, we summarize some common signs that may indicate spoilage:

  • Changes in color and appearance: Expired sauce may exhibit changes in color. It might become darker, develop spots, or have an off-color appearance. Additionally, if the sauce has separated or become clumpy, this could also be a sign of spoilage.
  • Foul or unusual odor: Spoiled sauce often has a distinct unpleasant smell. If the sauce emits an off odor, it could be an indication of bacterial growth or fermentation.
  • Mold growth: Some sauces, especially those with high moisture content like tomato-based sauces, can develop mold when expired. The presence of mold, which can appear as fuzzy or discolored patches, is a clear sign that the sauce is spoiled.

You should never eat spoiled sauce, specially if it is contaminated with molds as they can produce dangerous mycotoxins that can make you very sick (5-6)

  • Texture and consistency changes: Expired sauce may undergo changes in texture and consistency. It might become watery, separate into layers, or form clumps. These changes can be an indicator of spoilage.
  • Tasting off or sour: When sauce has spoiled, its taste can be noticeably different. It may taste off, sour, or have an unpleasant flavor.

If you observe any of these signs in your sauce, it is best to discard it to avoid the risk of foodborne illnesses or other health complications. 

What should you do if you accidentally eat spoiled sauce?

If you accidentally eat spoiled sauce, it is essential to monitor your body for any adverse reactions. 

If you experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or any other signs of foodborne illness (4), you should seek medical attention immediately. 

Remember that you should stay hydrated, rest, and avoid consuming any more of the spoiled sauce. 

How long does sauce typically last before it expires?

The shelf-life of the sauce varies with the type of ingredients of the sauce and the storage method. 

Here is a general table outlining the estimated shelf life of different types of sauces when stored properly and unopened:

Type of SauceShelf Life (Unopened, Pantry)Shelf Life (Opened, Refrigerator)
Tomato-based sauce1 to 2 years5 to 7 days
Barbecue sauce1 to 2 years4 to 6 months
Hot sauce3 to 5 years1 to 2 years
Soy sauce2 to 3 years2 to 3 years
Fish sauce2 to 3 years2 years
Worcestershire sauce2 to 3 years1 to 2 years
Mayonnaise2 to 3 months2 to 3 months
Mustard1 to 2 years1 year
Ketchup1 to 2 years1 year
Salad dressing (bottled)6 to 9 months1 to 3 months
Vinegar-based hot sauce3 to 5 years1 to 2 years
Pesto sauce6 to 12 months1 to 2 weeks
Tartar sauce6 to 9 months1 to 2 months

Please note that these are general estimates, and the actual shelf life can vary depending on various factors such as the brand, specific ingredients, and storage conditions. 

So, you should always refer to the product’s label for specific storage instructions and discard any sauce that shows signs of spoilage or has exceeded its recommended shelf life.

How to properly handle sauce to avoid its spoilage?

Here, we provide seven tips that could help you to prevent spoilage and maintain the quality of your sauce:

  1. Check expiration dates: Always check the expiration date on the sauce packaging before purchasing and using it. Avoid buying sauces that are close to or past their expiration date.
  1. Store in a cool, dry place: Store unopened sauces in a cool, dry pantry or cupboard away from direct sunlight, heat sources, and humidity. Excessive heat and moisture can accelerate spoilage.
  1. Refrigerate after opening: Once opened, many sauces, especially those containing perishable ingredients like dairy or eggs, should be refrigerated. 

Check the label for specific refrigeration instructions. Generally, sauces like mayonnaise, salad dressings, and certain condiments should be refrigerated after opening to maintain their quality and prevent bacterial growth.

  1. Use clean utensils: Always use clean and dry utensils when scooping or pouring sauce from the container. Avoid introducing moisture, dirt, or other contaminants into the sauce, as they can promote spoilage.
  1. Seal tightly: After opening the sauce, ensure the container is tightly sealed to minimize exposure to air and moisture. This helps preserve the sauce and prevent bacterial contamination.
  1. Avoid cross-contamination: Prevent cross-contamination by not double-dipping utensils into the sauce or using the same utensils for multiple sauces. This helps prevent the introduction of bacteria or other contaminants.
  1. Use within recommended timeframes: Pay attention to the recommended shelf life or “use-by” dates on the sauce packaging, whether unopened or opened. Consume the sauce within these timeframes to ensure freshness and reduce the risk of spoilage.

By following these proper handling practices, you can maximize the shelf life and quality of sauces, reducing the likelihood of spoilage and maintaining food safety.


In this article, we answered the question “What happens If you eat expired sauce?”. Moreover, we discussed the shelf life of different types of sauce, how to identify spoiled sauce and how to handle your sauce to prevent spoilage


1. Bonestroo MH, Kusters BJM, de Wit JC, Rombouts FM. The fate of spoilage and pathogenic bacteria in fermented sauce-based salads. Food Microbiol [Internet]. 1993 Apr 1 [cited 2023 Jul 3];10(2):101–11. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0740002083710117 

2. Draughon FA, Elahi M, Mccarty IE. Microbial Spoilage of Mexican-Style Sauces. J Food Prot [Internet]. 1981 Apr 1 [cited 2023 Jul 3];44(4):284–7. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0362028X23010529 

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5. Sengun I, Yaman D, Gonul S. Mycotoxins and mould contamination in cheese: a review. https://doi.org/103920/WMJ2008.x041 [Internet]. 2008 Aug 18 [cited 2023 May 31];1(3):291–8. Available from: https://www.wageningenacademic.com/doi/abs/10.3920/WMJ2008.x041 

6. Drusch S, Ragab W. Mycotoxins in Fruits, Fruit Juices, and Dried Fruits. J Food Prot [Internet]. 2003 Aug 1 [cited 2023 May 11];66(8):1514–27. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12929850/ 

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