Why should we not eat spoiled food?

In this article, we answer the following question: Why should we not eat spoiled food? We tell you the signs of spoiled food and the main risks of eating spoiled food. 

Why should we not eat spoiled food?

Eating spoiled food is dangerous and can even cause you different severe health problems (1-3). People at high risk are pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and those with immune problems (4). In these cases, it can even lead to death (1-3).

Thus, It is very important that you are careful when eating food that has passed its expiration date or looks, smells, or tastes different than it should.

If you have any doubt, please throw the food away! Thus you could avoid the potential health risks associated with consuming spoiled food.

What are the main risks of eating spoiled food?

Some of the main risks related with to the consume of spoiled food are:

  • Food Poisoning: You can be poisoned when consuming spoiled food that is contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, viruses, or parasites (5-7).
  • Gastrointestinal Distress: Your digestive system could be irritated by eating spoiled food, thus leading to gastrointestinal distress (1-2).
  • Allergic Reactions: Eating spoiled food (especially moldy bread or rotten fruits) can trigger allergic reactions (8). The allergic reactions could be severe, so please be careful!
  • Foodborne Illness: If you eat spoiled food you are also increasing the risk of experiencing a serious foodborne illness, such as Botulism, Salmonella or E. coli intoxication (4,6,9). This microorganism can cause severe symptoms and even death.

What are the most common symptoms of food poisoning?

The symptoms of food poisoning vary depending on the severity of the infection and the type of contaminant in your food (1-2).  The most common symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, fever, headache, fatigue and dehydration (1).

You will experience some of these symptoms within a few hours to a few days after consuming contaminated food (2-3). In most cases of food poisoning, you will recover after a few days to a week without any medical treatment (1).

However, in some cases, the duration and severity can lead to complications, especially in vulnerable individuals like children, elderly, and people with weakened immune systems (4).  In that case, they will require urgent medical attention. This is the case of infections produced by pathogenic bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella that are among the most dangerous (4,6,9).

If you experience severe or prolonged symptoms after eating food, do not wait too long! it is always better to seek medical attention.

How can we identify spoiled food and prevent food poisoning?

The following tips will help you to you identify and prevent the consumption of spoiled food and thus avoid food poisoning:

  • Always check the expiration date: As a rule: food that has passed its expiration date should be thrown away.
  • Always check for signs of spoilage: Be aware of any sign of spoilage such as discoloration, unusual texture, changes in smells and tastes. If you see any of these signals it is best to throw it away.
  • Always practice good hygiene: wash your hands before handling food! Also, keep all cooking surfaces and utensils clean to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Store food properly: This can prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from other food items.
  • Cook food thoroughly: an appropriate temperature can kill harmful bacteria (10). You can always use a food thermometer to ensure that your food is cooked to the appropriate temperature inside.

Finally, the most important tip is to trust your instincts!

If the food looks, smells, or tastes off, trust your instincts and don’t eat it! 

What should we do if we suspect we have eaten spoiled food?

In the case that you suspect that you have eaten spoiled food, you should:

  • Check and monitor your symptoms. Pay special attention to any symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
  • Drink a lot of fluids important to stay hydrated and replace electrolytes.
  • If you experience severe and persistent symptoms, you should seek medical attention. This is even more relevant if you belong to one of the high-risk groups (elderly, young children, or pregnant women)
  • Do not wait and seek medical attention immediately!
  • Discard any food that you suspect is spoiled to prevent further consumption from you or others.

Finally, remember that it is always best to be on the safe side and discard your food if you have any doubts.

Prevention is better than cure!


In this article, we answered the following question: Why should we not eat spoiled food? We taught you the signs of spoiled food and the main risks of eating spoiled food.


1.   Hurst WC, Reynolds AE, Schuler GA, Tybor PT. Preventing food poisoning and food infection [Internet]. University of Georgia; 2010 [cited 2023 May 3]. Available from: https://esploro.libs.uga.edu/esploro/outputs/9949316166102959?institution=01GALI_UGA&skipUsageReporting=true&recordUsage=false

2.   Lawrence DT, Dobmeier SG, Bechtel LK, Holstege CP. Food Poisoning. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2007 May 1;25(2):357–73. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17482025/

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6.   Turnbull PCB. Food Poisoning with Special Reference to Salmonella — Its Epidemiology, Pathogenesis and Control. Clin Gastroenterol. 1979 Sep 1;8(3):663–714.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/387301/

7.   Aaliya B, Valiyapeediyekkal Sunooj K, Navaf M, Parambil Akhila P, Sudheesh C, Ahmed Mir S, et al. Recent trends in bacterial decontamination of food products by hurdle technology: A synergistic approach using thermal and non-thermal processing techniques. Food Res Int. 2021 Sep 1;147:110514.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34399492/

8.   Sicherer SH, Sampson HA. Food allergy: A review and update on epidemiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, prevention, and management. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2018 Jan 1;141(1):41–58. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29157945/

9.   Ting PT, Freiman A. The story of Clostridium botulinum: from food poisoning to Botox. Clin Med (Northfield Il) [Internet]. 2004 May 5 [cited 2023 May 3];4(3):258. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC4953590/?report=abstract. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15244362/  

10. Juneja VK, Huang L, Yan X. Thermal inactivation of foodborne pathogens and the USDA pathogen modeling program. J Therm Anal Calorim [Internet]. 2011 Apr 1 [cited 2023 May 3];106(1):191–8. Available from: https://akjournals.com/view/journals/10973/106/1/article-p191.xml

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