What happens If you eat expired tomato sauce?

In this article, we will answer the question “What happens If you eat expired tomato sauce?” and discuss what are the risks of eating expired tomato sauce and what is the shelf-life of tomato sauce.

What happens If you eat expired tomato sauce?

If you eat expired tomato sauce, it is possible that nothing unusual happens, as foods, when properly stored and handled, can be safely consumed after their expiration date (1).

However, if the tomato sauce is contaminated or spoiled, it can cause undesirable health issues, including foodborne diseases (3,5). 

Tomato sauce is an acidic food. The low pH inhibits most of the bacteria, but there are some species, such as Clostridium and Bacillus, which are spore-forming, that are able to develop in tomato sauce. Yeasts and mold also can grow in the tomato sauce.

Therefore, consuming expired tomato sauce is always a riks, because the expiration date indicates the date after which the food can no longer maintain its microbial and physical stability (6).

What are the risks of eating spoiled tomato sauce?

Eating spoiled tomato sauce can cause foodborne diseases, including Botulism. Botulism is a very common food-borne illness that results when the tomato sauce is improperly canned or incorrectly stored. It is related to home-canned foods or to low-acid foods (7). 

Symptoms appear after 18-36 hours of consuming bad tomato sauce. Most common symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. 

Moreover, symptoms like difficulty swallowing, muscle weakness, double vision, drooping eyelids, blurry vision, slurred speech, and difficulty breathing may also be observed. Botulism can be fatal If not treated. 

However, foodborne diseases are not only related to canned tomato sauce. Homemade sauce that has been stored improperly or has been expired can bring a risk to health. A study reported a food outbreak related to the consumption of homemade tomato sauce due to the bacteria Staphylococcus (5). 

In addition, yeast and molds and spore-forming bacteria Bacillus can also develop in tomato sauce and cause foodborne illnesses, when ingested, or their toxins (3).

Possible symptoms of a foodborne illness are dizziness, vomiting, cramps and diarrhea.

What is the shelf-life of tomato sauce?

The shelf life of tomato sauce varies from a few days to years, depending on its type, how it was processed, the packaging material (in the case of commercial products) and the storage conditions (2,4).

The shelf life of different types of tomato sauce is given in the table below (2):

Type In the pantry (unopened)In the fridge (opened)In the freezer (opened)
Can or glass jar Up to 2 years 4 days 2 months
Homemade (canned properly)Up to 1 year 3-4 days 2 months 
Homemade (not canned, leftover)2 hours3 days2 months

How to know if tomato sauce is spoiled?

To know if tomato sauce is spoiled you should be able to identify possible signs of spoilage. The most common indications that tomato sauce is spoiled are following (3,4):

  • Generation of off-odors, such as sour, rancid, putrid, fruity and alcoholic odors
  • Generation of off-flavors, such as medicinal taste, buttery, alcoholic, metallic, ammonia-like
  • Development of fuzzy white colonies or formations of different colors
  • Generation of gas, bloating of the packaging or can
  • Leakage of the sauce through the glass
  • Corrosion of the can
  • Discoloration of the sauce due to the loss of lycopene 
  • Formation of slime on the surface or bubbling
  • Changes in the texture

How to store tomato sauce?

To store unopened canned tomato sauce, place it in a cool and dry place in the pantry away from heat sources and away from sunlight. The ideal temperature of the pantry is between 50 and 70°F (8).

After opening the jar or can, transfer the sauce to an airtight container and place it in the refrigerator or freezer. In the case of homemade tomato sauce leftovers, store it within 2 hours after cooking the sauce in the refrigerator or freezer.

Other FAQs about Sauces which you may be interested in.

What happens if you eat expired yum yum sauce?

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In this article, we answered the question “What happens If you eat expired tomato sauce?” and discussed what are the risks of eating expired tomato sauce and what is the shelf-life of tomato sauce.


  1. Food Product labeling. United States Department of Agriculture.
  2. Foodkeeper. United States Department of Agriculture.
  3. Sperber, William H. Microbiological spoilage of acidified specialty products. Compendium of the microbiological spoilage of foods and beverages. 2009.
  4. Nkhata, Smith Gilliard, and Emmanuel Owino Ayua. Quality attributes of homemade tomato sauce stored at different temperatures. Afr J Food Sci, 2018, 12, 97-103.
  5. Carmo, Luiz Simeão do, et al. An outbreak of staphylococcal food poisoning in the municipality of Passos, MG, Brazil. Brazil Arch Biol Technol, 2003, 46, 581-586.
  6. World Health Organization. Food Safety: What you should know. No. SEA-NUT-196. World Health Organization, 2015.
  7. Clostridium botulinum and botulism. United States Department of Agriculture.
  8. Van Laanen, Peggy. Safe home food storage. Texas Farmer Collection. 200.

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