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What Happens When You Eat Expired Food?

Sometimes we check our refrigerator or kitchen cupboard and eat the food items without checking for their expiry date. Though most of the time eating expired food might not harm you, however, many times you might fall sick after eating expired food.

As per Hopkins Medicine, one can experience signs of food sickness as quickly as within thirty minutes to around three weeks.(1) This depends on what food you ate, and how contaminated the expired food was.

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If you want to know what happens when you eat expired food, then read this article further.

What Happens When You Eat Expired Food?

You Might Experience Nothing At All

So, chances are that you might experience nothing at all when you eat expired food, except a yucky taste. However, it is not a good idea to continue eating expired food daily.

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One of the interesting facts is that no matter how long a food is frozen, you can safely eat it.(2) Food poisoning doesn’t grow in the freezer, though the food might become dry,  and might not taste best. Packaged foods like pasta, or cereals also remain safe past the “best by date”.

Moreover, you won’t fall ill with pasteurized foods in general, though they might have a funky taste or smell. FDA notes that all harmful bacteria are killed in the process of pasteurization.(3)

You Might Be Affected By Food Poisoning

When you eat food after its expiry date and if the food is spoiled, you might develop certain symptoms of food poisoning. Stomach cramps, fever, chills, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting are some of the symptoms that you might experience with food poisoning.

You Might Get Exposed To Dangerous Bacteria

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Sometimes eating expired food can get you exposed to dangerous bacteria or toxins, such as E.coli, Listeria, Campylobacter enteritis, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, and Shigella. These bacteria and toxins can cause various foodborne diseases.

According to foodsafety.gov, it has been mentioned that many of these dangerous bacteria can result in serious illnesses, hospitalization, and even death.(4) Some of the symptoms caused due to these harmful bacteria in expired foods include vomiting, stiff neck, loss of balance, confusion, fever, convulsions, and, muscle aches, diarrhea, vomiting, and hemolytic uremic syndrome or HUS, etc.

You Might Eat Something That Has Lost Its Nutritional Value

Foods after their expiration date lose their quality and develop a stale or poor taste. However, the biggest thing is that they might also lose their nutritional value.

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A study that was conducted on maximizing the nutritional value of vegetables and fruits had also mentioned that nutritional value gets lost between the time of harvest, the time for which they are displayed at the store, and the time the consumer keeps them stored before consumption.(5)

Sometimes Eating Expired Food Can Result In Death

It must be kept noted that in extreme conditions, a person might die from eating foods past their expiration date. This is because some diseases like Listeria can be hazardous, especially for people with weakened immune system (in the case of the elderly, newborns, or unhealthy or sick people)

What To Do After Eating Expired Foods?

In case you have accidentally consumed foods past their expiry date and experiencing symptoms of illness, you should immediately act upon it. You should visit your doctor immediately. However, till you visit your doctor, you can also try to manage the condition at home and this can be done by avoiding certain foods like heavy and acidic foods for a few hours and by remaining well hydrated. You can drink water or can drink some electrolyte-containing drinks. These drinks not only keep you hydrated but are also great for settling your stomach well.

Few Tips On Food Safety

To keep the food at its best, it must be stored and handled properly. Below are some tips that can ensure food safety and everyone should know them.

  • Store the food safely: Make sure the raw meat, fish, and poultry are kept separated from other foods to prevent cross-contamination. This is what the Mayo Clinic advises.(5)
  • Handle the food properly: You should handle the food with clean hands to reduce the risk of developing foodborne diseases.
  • Cook the food item to safe temperatures: Harmful bacteria in food gets killed when you thoroughly cook the food.
  • Track how long the food item has been stored: You can find a handy chart prepared by Foodsafety.org that shows how long each type of food can be stored in a freezer or refrigerator. Most of the food items can be kept for five days in the refrigerator, or at 40 degrees or below, and one month to a year in the freezer or at 0 degrees and below.(7)

Ultimately Check Your Food For Its Expiry Date Before Eating!

It is essential to examine your food if it has an expiry date before eating. The best way to know it is to check visually for any foul smell or mold on the product. You can also taste a bit of the food to know if it tastes normal, or else stop eating and dispose of the food item.

NOTE: If you experience any symptoms of food poisoning after eating expired food, make sure to reach your doctor immediately.

References:

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