Macaroni is a type of pasta that is made from durum wheat and often shaped into narrow tubes. It has a relatively long shelf life compared to many other foods, but macaroni can eventually spoil if stored improperly or kept for too long. Here are some tips for determining if your macaroni has gone bad and is no longer safe to eat.
Check the Expiration Date
The first thing to look for is the expiration date printed on the packaging. Dry pasta like macaroni can typically last 1-2 years past its printed expiration date if stored properly in a cool, dry place. However, it’s generally not recommended to eat macaroni more than 2 years after its expiration date, even if it looks and smells fine.
So if the expiration date has long passed, it’s best to throw away the macaroni instead of risking illness from spoiled food. Discard any packages that are badly damaged or swollen as well, as this can indicate the pasta has been exposed to moisture and may be contaminated.
Look for Changes in Color or Texture
Fresh macaroni has a uniform, bright yellow color. As it starts to spoil, the color fades and becomes dull yellow, grey, or even a bit green. Significant discoloration means the pasta has likely spoiled.
The texture also changes as macaroni goes bad. It starts to become soft and powdery. If your macaroni feels mushy instead of firm when pressed between your fingers, it has lost its freshness and should be thrown out.
Check for Mold Growth
One of the surest signs that pasta has spoiled is visible mold growth. Check the macaroni noodles thoroughly before cooking. If you see fuzzy mold anywhere on the noodles, or inside the package, do not eat the pasta. Mold spores can spread quickly and contaminate the entire package.
A few small specks of mold are enough to spoil the whole batch. When in doubt, don’t risk eating moldy macaroni.
Give it a Sniff Test
Fresh, unspoiled macaroni has little to no discernible smell. As it starts to go bad, it gives off odors indicating spoilage. The most common smells of bad macaroni include:
- Musty, stale odor
- Sour, vinegar-like smell
- Ammonia-like smell
- Rotten egg odor
An unpleasant, “off” smell means the macaroni is no longer fresh and should not be eaten. Trust your senses – if it smells funky or fermented, into the trash it goes.
Check for Insect Infestation
Dry grains like macaroni can become infested with pantry pests if not stored properly. Check for small black or brown insects crawling on or inside the packaging. Signs of bugs also include:
- Small pinholes in packaging
- Clumps of grain stuck together
- Specks that look like pepper but are actually insect droppings
- Cobwebs inside packaging
Discard any macaroni that shows signs of bugs without consuming, as it is considered contaminated and unsafe.
How to Store Macaroni Properly
To extend the shelf life of your macaroni and prevent spoilage, follow these storage tips:
- Store in a cool, dry pantry or cupboard away from direct sunlight.
- Keep macaroni in an airtight container or sealed bag after opening.
- Ensure packaging is not damaged and securely closed.
- Do not store pasta in the refrigerator as this causes it to become starchy.
- Use oldest packages first and check expiration dates.
- Discard any packages that are damaged or infested.
What Happens if You Eat Spoiled Macaroni?
Eating spoiled, moldy, or contaminated macaroni can cause foodborne illness. Potential symptoms include:
- Stomach cramps
Severe cases can even lead to hospitalization. Certain populations like pregnant women, children, elderly, or those with compromised immune systems are at higher risk for complications from food poisoning.
If you experience any symptoms after eating bad macaroni, seek medical attention. Disinfect any surfaces and containers the pasta touched using a chlorine bleach solution to prevent further contamination.
How to Know if Cooked Macaroni has Gone Bad
The signs of spoiled cooked macaroni are similar to that of uncooked pasta:
- Mold growth
- Changes in color and texture – becomes mushy
- Sour smell
- Strange flavors
Cooked macaroni only stays fresh for 3-5 days stored in the refrigerator. To maximize freshness:
- Refrigerate leftover macaroni within 2 hours of cooking.
- Store in airtight containers to prevent drying out.
- Use within 3-5 days.
- Do not freeze previously cooked macaroni.
- Reheat thoroughly before serving.
When reheating, check that the macaroni looks and smells normal. If you notice an off smell or texture after reheating, do not eat it. Cooked macaroni that has gone bad can harbor dangerous bacteria and toxins.
Can Spoiled Macaroni Make You Sick?
Yes, eating macaroni that has spoiled can cause food poisoning. The most common culprits include:
- Salmonella – Causes diarrhea, fever, cramps, and nausea.
- Bacillus cereus – Causes vomiting and diarrhea.
- Staphylococcus aureus – Causes severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Clostridium perfringens – Causes diarrhea and cramps.
- Mold toxins – Can cause long-term health effects if repeatedly consumed.
These bacteria can quickly multiply on perishable foods like cooked pasta when left at room temperature for too long. Their toxins can survive even after reheating.
The effects of food poisoning range from mild stomach upset to life-threatening neurological damage, depending on the pathogen. Vulnerable groups are most at risk of severe complications.
So never eat macaroni that smells bad, has changed colors, shows mold, or otherwise seems spoiled. When in doubt, remember it’s better to be safe than sorry.
How to Disinfect After Exposure to Spoiled Macaroni
If you encounter spoiled macaroni, it’s important to fully disinfect any surfaces it touched to kill harmful bacteria:
- Wash hands – Use soap and hot water after handling spoiled pasta. Wash for at least 20 seconds.
- Clean surfaces – Wipe down counters, plates, cooking tools, etc with a disinfectant cleaner or bleach solution.
- Sanitize dishes – If plates or utensils made contact, wash thoroughly with hot soapy water then soak in bleach solution.
- Discard food containers – Throw away any packaging that held bad macaroni.
- Wash towels – Launder any towels that touched spoiled pasta in hot water.
- Take out the trash – Securely dispose of the macaroni in a sealed bag so pets/pests cannot get into it.
These steps help destroy bacteria left behind and prevent spread of illness. Monitor your health in the following days for any symptoms of food poisoning.
Can You Salvage Spoiled Macaroni?
No, it is never safe to eat macaroni that has spoiled or grown mold. There is no method of “salvaging” macaroni once it has gone bad.
Methods like picking out the moldy pieces, cooking thoroughly, or soaking in vinegar cannot destroy the dangerous toxins released by bacteria and mold. Even a tiny amount of contamination can lead to illness.
Likewise, do not taste macaroni that seems “off” just to check if it’s still good. Assume any macaroni that shows signs of spoilage is unsafe to eat, and discard the entire package.
Trying to salvage spoiled food puts you at risk for food poisoning. Follow the motto “when in doubt, throw it out” to stay safe.
Can You Eat Macaroni After the Expiration Date?
You can safely eat dry macaroni pasta for up to 1-2 years after the printed expiration date if it was stored properly in a cool, dry pantry. However, it’s best to discard macaroni more than 2 years past its date, even if it appears fine.
For cooked macaroni with sauces or ingredients, observe the following time limits:
- Leftover macaroni and cheese – 3 to 5 days
- Pasta salad – 3 to 5 days
- Macaroni casserole – 3 to 4 days
Be sure to inspect the macaroni closely for signs of spoilage before eating, like an off smell, texture, or appearance. Never rely on dates alone to determine safety – also use your senses. When in any doubt, remember it’s better to be safe and discard the pasta.
Macaroni that has spoiled should never be consumed. Look for discoloration, foul odors, mushy texture, mold, or insect infestation as signs pasta has gone bad. Cooked macaroni only stays fresh for 3-5 days in the fridge. Beyond this, spoilage bacteria can multiply quickly and release dangerous toxins that cause food poisoning. Fully sanitize any surfaces that touch bad pasta to prevent illness. When macaroni in question, do not taste, eat or salvage it – always throw away spoiled food.