Bacon that has been continuously refrigerated and unopened can generally be safely consumed up to 1 week past the printed expiration date, provided it has no signs of spoilage like an off smell, sliminess, or mold. However, it’s best to inspect and cook expired bacon thoroughly before eating.
Inspecting Unopened, Expired Bacon
When determining if an unopened package of refrigerated bacon is still safe to eat after the expiration date has passed, it’s important to thoroughly inspect it first. Here are some guidelines for inspecting expired, unopened bacon:
- Check for signs of leaks or damage to the packaging like tears or punctures. Leaks or tears can allow bacteria to contaminate the bacon.
- Give the bacon a sniff test. Raw bacon should not smell rancid, sour, or unpleasant in any way.
- Examine the color and texture. The bacon should look normal with no signs of spoilage like sliminess, stickiness, or mold.
- If the bacon has any discoloration, such as greenish or blueish patches, it may be spoiled by mold.
If the unopened package of refrigerated bacon passes the inspection and shows no signs of spoilage, it can likely be safely consumed within 1 week past the printed sell-by or use-by date. However, it’s still best to cook expired bacon thoroughly before eating it.
How Long Can Unopened Bacon Last Past its Expiration Date?
Unopened packages of bacon stored continuously in the refrigerator can typically last 5-7 days past their printed expiration date before quality starts to decline. However, they remain safe to eat for up to 1 week past the date on the package.
Here are some general guidelines for how long refrigerated, unopened bacon lasts past its expiration date:
- 1 week past sell-by date: Still safe to eat if thoroughly cooked, but quality declines.
- 2 weeks past sell-by date: Increased risk of spoilage and foodborne illness.
- 3+ weeks past sell-by date: Highly risky, do not eat.
The sell-by date is the recommended date for selling or using the bacon. But since you can typically keep bacon 7-10 days past the sell-by date if it’s unopened, the use-by date is a better reference for safety.
It’s not recommended to eat bacon more than 1 week past the use-by date, even if it’s unopened and refrigerated. The longer bacon is stored past its expiration date, the higher the risk of potentially dangerous bacteria growth.
How to Tell if Expired Bacon is Bad
Here are some signs that bacon has spoiled and is unsafe to eat, even if the package is still sealed:
- Slimy texture – Fresh bacon should be slightly sticky but not slimy or slippery.
- Off odor – Bacon that has gone bad will have a rancid, rotting, or sour smell.
- Mold growth – Look for fuzzy white, green, or blue patches, which indicate mold.
- Discoloration – Yellow or greenish tinges mean the bacon is past its prime.
- Dryness or stiffness – As bacon ages, it loses moisture. Dry, stiff bacon that cracks instead of bends is old.
If you notice any of these signs, it’s best to throw away the bacon even if it’s still sealed and before the expiration date. These are indications it could be harboring harmful bacteria like Salmonella, Listeria, or E. coli.
Can You Freeze Bacon Past Its Expiration Date?
Freezing unopened bacon can extend its shelf life if it hasn’t already spoiled. Properly frozen bacon can last 3-6 months past the printed sell-by or use-by date.
Follow these tips for freezing bacon to prolong its shelf life:
- Make sure the bacon looks and smells fresh before freezing. Do not freeze spoiled bacon.
- Double wrap the unopened package in plastic wrap or place inside a resealable freezer bag.
- Store at 0°F or below. Consistent freezing prevents freezer burn.
- Once thawed, use the bacon within 1 week.
Frozen bacon may suffer some loss of texture over long storage times. But if dated for use within 3-6 months and kept continuously frozen, it should remain safe to eat even past the expiration date on the package.
Is it Safe to Eat Unopened, Expired Bacon?
Eating expired bacon comes with an increased risk of foodborne illness, especially once it’s more than 1 week past the printed use-by date. However, unopened bacon that’s been continually refrigerated can often be safely eaten within 1 week past its expiration date.
There are some other factors to consider when determining if unopened, expired bacon is safe to eat:
- Storage temperature – Was it stored properly at 40°F or below? Higher temps increase spoilage risk.
- Package condition – Leaks, holes, or damage can contaminate the bacon.
- Fat quality – Fresh bacon fat should be firm and pale yellow. Rancid bacon fat turns dark yellow or brown.
- Preparation method – Thorough cooking kills bacteria but can’t eliminate toxins from spoiled meat.
In most cases, as long as expired bacon is inspected closely and cooked thoroughly, it should be safe for consumption up to 1 week past its printed date. But it’s generally better to err on the side of caution and throw away bacon more than 7 days past its expiration.
If the bacon has developed an off smell, odd color, slimy texture, or other signs of spoilage, it’s best to discard it even if the expiration date hasn’t passed. And when in doubt, remember the old adage: “When in doubt, throw it out.”
Tips for Safely Cooking Expired Bacon
If cooking bacon that’s past its expiration date, follow these recommendations to protect yourself from potential foodborne illness:
- Preheat your oven to 400°F. Oven-cooking allows the bacon to heat evenly and reach high internal temperatures.
- Place bacon on a foil-lined baking sheet. Avoid overcrowding.
- Cook until the bacon is fully rendered and crispy, about 15-20 minutes.
- Discard any undercooked portions that still look slimy or raw.
- Wash hands, utensils, pans, and surfaces that have touched the raw bacon to avoid cross-contamination.
Cooking bacon to an internal temperature of 145°F-165°F will kill potentially harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli. However, toxins released by bacteria prior to cooking can’t be destroyed by heat. So expired bacon carries more risk than fresh.
Keep cooked bacon refrigerated for no more than 4 days before throwing it away. Reheating cooked bacon thoroughly before eating can further reduce foodborne illness risks.
Food Safety Tips for Properly Storing Bacon
To help your bacon last as long as possible and keep it safe to eat, be sure to:
- Check sell-by and use-by dates at the store and purchase the package with the furthest date.
- Refrigerate unopened bacon at 40°F or below as soon as possible after purchasing.
- Store opened packages of cooked bacon in airtight containers. Use within 4 days.
- Keep uncooked and cooked bacon separate to prevent cross-contamination.
- Store bacon on lower refrigerator shelves to prevent juices from dripping on other foods.
- Freeze extra bacon if you don’t plan to use it within 2-3 weeks.
Proper refrigerator temperatures and food handling practices can help bacon stay fresh longer and reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses. Discard bacon if it ever develops an off smell or appearance, even if the date indicates it should still be safe. When unsure if bacon is okay to eat, it’s best to play it safe and throw it away.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you get food poisoning from eating expired bacon?
Yes, you can get food poisoning from eating bacon that’s expired, especially if it’s more than 1 week past its use-by date. Bacon can harbor dangerous bacteria like Salmonella and Listeria. Eating spoiled, undercooked bacon increases your risk of foodborne illness.
How can you tell if unopened bacon is bad?
Signs that unopened bacon has spoiled include a rancid smell, slimy texture, discoloration or unusual colors, mold growth, and dryness or stiffness. Discard bacon immediately if you notice these even if it’s within the expiration date. Always thoroughly inspect and cook expired bacon.
What happens if you eat bacon that has gone bad?
Eating rancid bacon that contains pathogenic bacteria could cause food poisoning symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills, and stomach cramps. In severe cases, bad bacon can cause neurological issues and serious complications. Play it safe and throw away bacon at the first signs of spoilage.
Can you cook and eat bacon after the use-by date?
Bacon can be cooked and eaten up to 1 week after the use-by date as long as it has been continuously refrigerated, the package is intact, and the bacon shows no signs of spoilage. Cook it thoroughly until crispy to kill potential bacteria. But expired bacon comes with an increased risk of foodborne disease.
How long is bacon safe to eat in the fridge?
Unopened bacon is safe to eat up to 1 week past the use-by date if it’s been refrigerated at 40°F or below the whole time. Once opened, refrigerate bacon for no more than 7 days before throwing it away. Cooked bacon lasts up to 4-5 days in the fridge. Always discard bacon that smells or looks off.
The Bottom Line
Bacon that’s unopened and properly refrigerated can often be safely eaten within 1 week after the printed use-by or sell-by date, provided it shows no outward signs of spoilage. For optimal freshness and food safety, cook the bacon thoroughly before eating. But it’s risky to consume bacon more than 1 week past its expiration date due to the potential growth of dangerous bacteria over time, even if refrigerated. When unsure if an expired, unopened package of bacon is still safe, it’s best to discard it. With careful inspection, proper cooking, and short storage times, you can enjoy bacon past its prime. But always remember – when in doubt, throw it out!