What Happens If You Eat Bad Bacon?

Bacon and eggs are a breakfast classic. Ubiquitous at breakfast buffets and a staple of the home kitchen. It’s quite natural to be curious about the safety of the bacon we feed our kids.

While the CDC does estimate that nearly 37 million Americans suffer from food poisoning each year, the vast majority of those cases are very mild and don’t warrant a trip to the doctor’s office.

Obviously, most of us would like to avoid any kind of food poisoning, no matter how mild.

Below, is a look at what happens if you eat bad bacon, and also see how to tell if bacon is bad before it is eaten.

You can get food poisoning from eating rancid, spoiled, raw or undercooked bacon. Indications include flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. These symptoms can take 1 – 2 days to manifest.

What Happens If You Bad Bacon?

The three most common pathogens in raw or undercooked bacon that make us sick are toxoplasmosis, trichinosis, and tapeworms.

Because bacon is a cured product, most if not all of these pathogens will not survive the bacon making process, the likelihood of getting sick from bacon is very low.

According to the CDC most people with healthy immune systems will never know they were infected with toxoplasmosis.

However, pregnant women and people with severely compromised immune systems may develop eye pain, sensitivity to light and blurred vision. These symptoms will develop over a matter of days or weeks, not hours.

Sliced sausage salami with mold
Sliced sausage salami with mold.

Trichinosis is the disease caused by a microscopic parasite called Trichinella. The “Certified Pork” label on any pork product means that the manufacture has demonstrated that all traces of trichinella have been destroyed.

Trichinella is not found pigs raised in confinement in the United States, but could be found in organic, pasture raised pigs.

Tapeworms are most common with free range pigs living in unsanitary conditions. While it is technically possible to contract them from undercooked pork, in the United States it is highly unlikely.

Can Pregnant Women And Young Children Get Sick After Eating Bad Bacon?

Pregnant women can get sick from eating undercooked meat, although it is very unlikely from bacon. Babies, both in the womb and out of the womb, can get toxoplasmosis, but in most cases will not show any symptoms.

Worst case symptoms for pregnant women and babies are eye infections, swollen glands and jaundice.

How Long After Eating Bad Bacon Will I Get Sick?

If you will get sick at all from eating bad bacon, you will begin to show symptoms in 1 – 2 days.

The pathogens in bacon that can make you sick will be killed by correctly cooking the bacon to the delightful level of crispiness bacon is known for.

Some other blogs advise cooking bacon to a certain temperature. However, due to the difficulty of getting a correct temperature reading in such a thin piece of meat, and the risk of being burned by hot grease splatters in the process, it is much easier and just as effective to use our eyes and ears as guide as recommended by the USDA.

Of course, the best course of action is to avoid eating bad bacon altogether.

How Can You Tell If Bacon Is Bad?

The best way to tell if bacon has gone bad is by examining the smell, feel and color. The color should be pink and white, the smell should be fresh and not sour or putrid and the feel should be moist and slightly sticky but not slimy.

The Smell Test

The first test to perform on bacon to see if it has gone bad is the smell test. Bacon should smell fresh without any hint of decomposition or sourness.

If the bacon is smoked or flavored with maple for example, it should smell smoked or like maple.

Sometimes, when it is cold bacon will not have a strong smell to it. If, however, when you start cooking it, the bacon starts to smell off (think anywhere between wet dog to rotting fish) discard the bacon and thoroughly clean the pan you were cooking your bacon in.

The Feel Test

Good bacon will have a slightly moist, smooth feel. If it is slimy or mushy and cannot hold its shape, discard it.

The Color Test

Bacon with nitrites will have a bright pink color. Uncured bacon, or bacon without nitrites will have a more natural color that will fade to a reddish brown.

The fatty parts of the bacon strip should be white regardless of nitrite levels, but uncured bacon will have a duller shade of white.

We have all heard about green eggs and ham, but what about green bacon?

As it turns out, green bacon can still be good. Researchers at the University of Oklahoma found that green coloring in bacon was due to a chemical reaction between the nitrite and a meat protein in the bacon and the result was perfectly safe to eat.

The research team led by George Richter-Addo and Jun Yi, found that nitrites reacted with the meat protein myoglobin, the effect was a green pigmentation. They called this reaction nitrite burn.

Said Ritcher-Addo, “No one really knows if “nitrite burn” is bad for you or not because there is so little information about the physiological effects on humans, but we have discovered that a simple chemical process, which inhibits the flow of oxygen in the blood and degrades the blood protein hemoglobin, causes the blood to turn from red to green.”

What If Bacon Is Brown But Still Smells Ok?

Because nitrite is what makes most bacon pink, uncured bacon, or bacon with no nitrites will often loose the bright colors it has when it is first made. This bacon is still perfectly safe to eat.

Many nutritionists recommend uncured bacon because of possible detrimental health effects of nitrite.

Whether your bacon has tints of green or brown, it is always important to use all of your senses and make sure the bacon still smells good and feel like it should as described above.

What Does Bad Bacon Taste Like?

If you have somehow powered through the smell and feel of bad bacon and eaten it anyways it will have a sour or a bitter taste, instead of the salty-umami bacon taste.

Turkey Bacon Taste & Nutrition

Some people consider turkey bacon to be a healthy alternative to pig bacon because turkey is lower in fat.

While lower in fat, turkey bacon is higher in carbohydrates and can have more processing chemicals like nitrites than uncured, free-range bacon.

What Happens If You Eat Bad Turkey Bacon?

Eating bad turkey bacon that has spoiled or gone rancid, can cause the same symptoms discussed above for pig bacon. Salmonella is not considered a serious threat from turkey bacon because the meat is cured and processed when made into bacon strips.

A Handy Guide To Testing Bacon

This table may be helpful in determining if bacon is safe to eat.

TypeSmellColorFeelSafe to eat
Cured BaconSalty, Smokey, MaplePink, White, Some GreenMoist, slightly stickyYes
Cured BaconOff, Sour, RottenMoldy or GreySlimy or can’t hold shapeNo
Uncured BaconSalty, Smokey, MaplePink, White, Brown and WhiteMoist, slightly stickyYes
Uncured BaconOff, Sour, RottenMoldy or GreySlimy or can’t hold shapeNo
Turkey BaconSalty, SmokeyPink, WhiteMoist, slightly stickyYes
Turkey BaconOff, Sour, RottenMoldy or GreySlimy or can’t hold shapeNo

How To Properly Store Bacon

Bacon should be stored in a refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower or in a freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

Once opened, packaged bacon should be kept in a clean zip top bag in the refrigerator.

The bacteria and molds that will turn your bacon bad will more than likely attach themselves to your bacon after you have opened the factory packaging.

This is why bacon of all types (cured, uncured, or turkey) will not last as long once the packaging is opened.

moldy and spoiled bacon
Moldy and spoiled bacon

The color, smell and feel test described above is the best way to tell if bacon you have been storing is still good to eat.

This table provides a general guideline you can use in addition to the three-part test.

TypeDuration in the FridgeDuration in the Freezer
Cured Bacon – Closed3 Months1 year
Cured Bacon – Open6 Weeks3 months
UnCured Bacon -Closed6 Weeks1 year
UnCured Bacon -Open2 Weeks3 months
Turkey Bacon – Closed3 Months1 year
Turkey Bacon – Open6 Weeks3 months

This table assumes that opened bacon is stored in a clean zip top bag for the fridge and the freezer.

It also seems the fridge and freezer are holding proper temperatures according to manufactures recommendations and no power outages have caused any extended rise in temperature.

To find out more detailed information on how to properly store cooked bacon to extend its shelf life, check out How Long Can Cooked Bacon Sit Out?

If you accidentally forgot to put your raw bacon in the fridge and wondering if you can still cook it, check out How Long Can Uncooked Bacon Sit Out and best ways to cook it.

Can You Eat Bacon After Use By Date?

Bacon can be safe to eat, even after the use by date. It is best to use common sense in addition to dates on packaging of food, bacon or otherwise.  If bacon passes the three-step test discussed above, then in it is safe to eat.

There is great confusion on the meaning of dates used by manufacturers on food products.

The dates are guideline to help the consumer and protect the manufactures from lawsuits.

They are not intended to be perfect predictions of future unpredictable biological processes.

Is It Safe To Eat Opened Bacon After The Use By Date?

Bacon is a preserved product and as such is safe to eat beyond any date placed on it by a manufacture.

Bacteria and mold that can turn the bacon bad, can come into contact with the bacon after you open the packaging.

Opened bacon whether is cured, uncured or turkey bacon can usually still be safe to eat after the use by or best by date. If the bacon passes the color, smell and feel test described above, it is safe to eat.

A Word On Bacon Bits

Valued by some consumers for their ease and convenience, despised by others for blurring the lines between real food and imitation food stuffs, bacon bits can be a source of controversy.

For a manufacture to call a product bacon, it must have pork bellies in it, unless specifically called something else like “turkey bacon” or “Canadian bacon”. So manufactured bits of real bacon should be stored with care.

What Happens If You Eat Expired Bacon Bits?

There is great confusion about the meaning of the dates manufactures put on their food product packaging.

No federal law exists in the United States requiring dates on food or providing a clear definition of dates should mean.

Many companies will put dates on packaging with words like “Best if Used by” to help consumers determine when to use their products.

If bacon bits show no signs of spoilage, and have been kept cool and dry, they are more than likely safe to eat. If unsure about their quality, you could taste a small amount and wait a day or two to see if you have any symptoms of food poisoning.

How Long Can You Keep An Opened Package Of Bacon?

Most websites give hard and fast rules of one week or two weeks. However, if cured bacon is kept in a clean refrigerator below 40 degrees, it can last a month or more. Uncured bacon will not last as long as cured, bet kept cold and clean can keep for a month.

As discussed above, the dates are not the important thing in determining how long bacon will keep.

Bacon is a cured product. It is designed to last longer than fresh meat or seafood.

No rule of thumb should be followed too rigidly. Let the bacon speak for itself by performing the three tests of smell, color and feel discussed above.

What To Do After Eating Bad Bacon?

If you ate bad bacon, even in large quantities, you are probably going to be fine. Most people who eat bad bacon will have mild symptoms like and upset stomach or possibly a mild fever.

A high fever over 101°F, blood in vomit or stool, green or yellow vomit, severe dehydration and diarrhea lasting longer than three days are signs you should seek immediate medical attention. These are also signs that you probably got food poisoning from something other than bacon.

Final Thoughts

Bacon is a universally loved treat that packs a ton of flavor into small little bits. We can eliminate the worry of eating bad bacon practicing the commonsense rules of smell, color and feel.

There are many things in life we could worry about. Bacon should not be one of them.

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