What Happens If You Eat Expired Bread (Health Risks & Storage Tips)

Have you ever looked at the expiration date on a loaf of bread from the store and wondered if it was safe to eat past the date listed?

Expiration dates can be an indicator that a food product is not safe to eat any more, however, that is not always the case in my experience. 

Having worked at a local health food store, I know first-hand that plenty of food is still safe to eat even past the expiration date.

This includes loaves of bread and other bread products such as breadcrumbs, english muffins, and crackers too.

Understanding the safety and consumption of expired bread is crucial for health and food management. While bread typically becomes stale after its expiration date, it’s often still safe to consume. Staleness primarily affects texture and taste, not safety. However, it’s vital to inspect for mold, as moldy bread should be discarded immediately due to potential toxins. Interestingly, bread’s shelf life can be extended significantly by storing it in the freezer, which preserves freshness and prevents mold growth. Remember, the key indicators of bread’s edibility are mold presence and overall quality, not just the date on the package. For those with food sensitivities, extra caution is advised even with slightly stale bread.

In this article, we will go over in detail how to identify spoiled bread and what the best methods are for keeping your bread fresh for as long as possible. 

It is important to note that there is a difference between the best-by and sell-by dates.

Best by means that the manufacturer recommends that the product tastes best and is at highest quality by that date.

A sell by date is when the store is required to sell it or remove the product from its shelves. 

Bread usually doesn’t come with an expiration date, but it might have a best-by date instead.

An expiration date is also used to note which products need to be removed from the store shelves to prevent spoilage as per the manufacturer.

What Happens if You Eat Expired Bread or Bread Crumbs with Mold?

It is not safe to eat bread or breadcrumbs with any type of mold on it as you can become sick from eating it.

If you see any white patches or green fuzz on your bread, it should be thrown out immediately.

A few days or weeks after opening or buying a loaf of bread or bread products such as pita or muffins they might become covered in bacteria and mold growth, such as Rhizopus, Mucor, Penicillium, Eurotium, Aspergillus and Moniiia.

These molds can create toxins which lead to food poisoning if eaten. 

Another common way that bread spoils is due to yeast contamination. The most common variety is called Pichia butonii, also known as “chalk mold”.

This yeast can multiply very quickly so it is important to watch out for any signs of this contaminant.

Make sure to throw out any bread products if you see discoloration since there is no reason to risk getting sick.

Symptoms of Eating Expired Bread with Mold

If you eat bread products that have gone bad or see signs of mold on it, you may experience food poisoning.

Bread with Mold

This could include upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or stomach cramps, diarrhea, or even fever.

It can take hours or even days to recover from food poisoning and it leads to a weakened immune system as well. 

If you do develop food poisoning, be sure to drink plenty of fluids in order to prevent dehydration from occurring.

If your symptoms are severe, be sure to see your doctor or healthcare provider for treatment.

What Happens if You Eat Expired Bread or Bread Crumbs Without Mold?

It is safe to eat bread and other bread products such as breadcrumbs past its best-by date! You will be fine, as long as it has not spoiled.

If stored in the fridge, bread typically lasts for a week at least and is safe to eat as long as there are no signs of mold or yeast patches on it.

In my experience, I have eaten slightly older bread from the local bakery and found that they last well over a week when wrapped up tightly and kept in the refrigerator.

Eating Expired Bread While Pregnant

You should be very careful about eating any kind of expired food while pregnant, as food poisoning can cause problems for you and your baby.

That being said, if you accidentally eat a small amount of moldy bread, you will likely be fine.

If the bread has no evidence of mold or yeast and is kept sealed, then it is still safe to eat even if slightly past the best-by date.

Can You Eat Expired Bread Stored in the Fridge?

The fridge is a great place to keep bread as it will stay fresher for much longer than sitting out on the counter at room temperature.

I recommend wrapping the bread tightly in plastic or keeping it sealed in the original packaging to preserve it and storing it in the fridge. 

You can also freeze bread easily. This prevents food waste and preserves your bread so when you take it out it will taste just as good as when you bought it from the store or baked it at home.

What Happens if You Eat Stale Bread?

Sometimes bread goes stale after a few days, but it is still perfectly safe to eat it, as long as there is no indication of mold or discoloration.

stale bread

There are also some great recipes you can make with stale bread. For instance, french toast or bread pudding call specifically for stale bread, since these recipes use a lot of liquid that gets soaked up during cooking.

You can also make your own breadcrumbs very easily. Just tear the stale bread into roughly 1 inch pieces and pulse it in a food processor until coarsely crumbled.

Keep the breadcrumbs in a tightly sealed container in the fridge or freezer until ready to use.

Eating Expired Bread Toasted

Bread that is slightly older but still good will improve from being toasted. I find that storing bread in the freezer and then taking out a slice to toast one at a time is the best way to enjoy it.

Tip

The secret to reviving stale bread is to sprinkle the loaf with water and put it in the oven at 350F for 5-10 minutes.
The moisture from the water will help soften the bread and the oven will add crispness to the outside of it. Then your bread will taste completely fresh again.

How To Best Store Bread to Keep it Fresh

On the counter

It is safe to keep bread at room temperature in a sealed package until it is opened. Once bread has been opened, it is important to wrap it up and prevent contamination.

On the counter bread will last for 5-7 days but after that it may become very stale or moldy.

You can use a breadbox or a canvas bag to store the bread as well. This keeps moisture and air from being exposed to the bread.

Alternatively, you can keep fresh loaves of bread in a paper bag on the counter. Just make sure to keep it away from heat and sunlight.

In the Fridge

To keep bread from going bad in the fridge, it must be tightly wrapped. This prevents moisture from drying out the bread too quickly.

I recommend using a plastic freezer bag or the original plastic wrapping it came in. 

By storing bread in the fridge, it will last much longer than it would if it were left out on the counter at room temperature.

Bread from the store usually lasts for 7-12 days if tightly wrapped or unopened. Homemade bread, however, does not last quite as long because of the lack of preservatives.

In the Freezer

The freezer is an ideal way to store any type of bread for up to months at a time. This includes homemade bread such as banana bread or pumpkin bread.

Even bagels or other bakery goods can be frozen and defrosted when ready to eat.

It is recommended to slice the bread beforehand if not already sliced. This way only the number of slices desired at a time can be removed and heated for eating.

Make sure to wrap the bread up in a sealed plastic freezer bag for best storage.

I usually freeze my bread immediately and then put a slice in the toaster when I am ready to have some. This way it will last for 3-6 months in the freezer.

What Is Used to Keep Bread Fresh for Longer?

Traditional store-bought bread contains some preservatives in order to keep it fresh for longer than homemade bread.

For example, preservatives including calcium propionate, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, and/or sorbic acid are used in small amounts. Homemade bread has a shorter life span because of its lack of preservatives.

In addition, gluten-free bread is kept in the refrigerator or freezer section because it has a higher moisture content than gluten bread.

This means that it is more likely to go bad quicker at room temperature. If you buy gluten-free bread, it is very important to keep it stored the same way you purchased it, whether from the fridge or freezer.

Meanwhile, breadcrumbs and crackers have lower moisture levels which allows them to last the longest at room temperature.

You can also keep these in a sealed freezer bag to prevent them from going stale too quickly.

Final Thoughts

It is important to know how to identify spoiled bread. By doing so, you can prevent yourself from possibly getting food poisoning.

Bread that has white, green or other discolored patches on it, or smells bad, should not be consumed.

Overall, bread is safe to eat past its sell-by or best-by date as long as it is not discolored.

Bread keeps very well in the fridge or freezer as long as it is tightly wrapped in plastic wrap or packaging.

You can also keep bread on the counter wrapped up or in a bread box for a few days at a time for easy access. Just be sure to keep a close eye on it before eating.

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