What To Do If You Mistakenly Eat Expired Food? Clinical Nutritionist Explains

Feb 5, 2024


Have you ever mistakenly or unknowingly eaten food that had gone bad or past its expiration date? It is important to know that doing so can potentially lead to food poisoning or foodborne illnesses. Ruchika Jain, Chief Clinical Nutritionist at Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj, Delhi, explains that the severity of the illness could depend on the type of food, the degree of expiration, and how it has been stored. Packaged foods may pose less risk if consumed a short time after their expiration date, while dairy products or meats can become hazardous relatively quickly after expiration.

Why Are Foods Unsafe Beyond The Date Of Expiration?

When food passes its expiration date, it can become unsafe to eat due to bacterial growth, mould formation, or chemical changes. Consuming expired food increases the risk of ingesting harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, or Listeria, which can lead to various troublesome health consequences.

When in doubt, avoid consuming food that you think has gone bad.

When in doubt, avoid consuming food that you think has gone bad. Photo Credit: iStock

Possible Risks Associated With Eating Expired Food:

1. Food Poisoning

Expired food may contain bacteria which can cause foodborne illnesses. Symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever, and in severe cases, dehydration and organ damage.

2. Mould Toxicity

Consuming expired food that has developed mould can lead to mould toxicity, which can cause allergic reactions, respiratory problems, headaches, and in severe cases, neurological symptoms.

Also Read: 9 Common Foods That Don’t Expire For Years. Stock Them In Your Kitchen

3. Food Spoilage

Expired food may change taste, texture, colour, and smell, indicating spoilage. While not necessarily harmful, spoiled food may cause discomfort or gastrointestinal issues.

4. Presence Of Harmful Chemicals

Certain foods, especially canned goods, may contain harmful chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) or phthalates, which can leach into the food over time. Consuming expired canned goods may increase the risk of exposure to these chemicals.

Tips On What All To Do If You Eat Expired Food:

If you have accidentally eaten expired food, here are some general tips to follow, as shared by the clinical nutritionist:

  • Stay Calm: Panicking won’t help the situation. Take a deep breath and assess how you feel.
  • Check The Symptoms: Monitor yourself for any signs of food poisoning or allergic reactions. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever, headache, or dizziness.
  • Drink Water: Stay hydrated. Drinking water can help flush out toxins and alleviate symptoms of food poisoning.
  • Seek Medical Advice: If you experience severe symptoms or if you are concerned about your health, seek medical attention immediately. A doctor can provide guidance based on your specific situation.
  • Discard Remaining Food: If you suspect that the food you consumed was the cause of your discomfort, discard the remaining portion to prevent further consumption.

Also Read: Beware! These 5 Everyday Foods Might Expire Faster Than You Thought

Prevent Eating Expired Food In Future

To minimize the risks associated with expired food, it is important to adhere to food safety guidelines, including checking expiration dates, properly storing food, and promptly discarding any expired items. Additionally, if you are unsure about the safety of a particular food item, it is best to err on the side of caution and refrain from consuming it.

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