Feta cheese crumbles can be a delicious addition to salads, pasta dishes, pizzas, and more. However, like any dairy product, feta cheese does not last forever. Knowing how to tell if your feta cheese crumbles have gone bad will help you avoid possible foodborne illness.
Some quick signs that your feta crumbles may have spoiled include mold growth, an off smell, change in color or texture, and expired sell-by date. Follow these guidelines to determine if your feta cheese is still safe to eat or if it’s time to toss it.
Check the Expiration Date
The first and easiest way to tell if your feta cheese crumbles are still good is to check the expiration or sell-by date printed on the packaging. This date tells you how long the manufacturer guarantees the optimal quality and freshness of the cheese.
For feta cheese crumbles stored continuously in the refrigerator, this is typically around 3 to 4 weeks after opening. However, feta that has been held at colder refrigerator temperatures closer to 32°F may last 5 to 6 weeks past its sell-by date before deteriorating in quality.
So if your feta cheese crumbles are within a few weeks of the sell-by date or have just exceeded it, they are probably still fine. But feta that is more than 4-6 weeks past its date should be discarded. Always inspect the product closely before consuming if it is past its date.
Look for Mold
One of the surest signs that feta crumbles have spoiled is visible mold growth. Feta is a soft cheese with high moisture content, making it prone to mold.
Check both the crumbles and the package closely under good lighting. Small dots or fuzzy spots of black, green, white, or blue mold may start to appear if the cheese has spoiled. Any mold at all means you should discard the feta right away.
Mold spores penetrate soft cheese and can cause illnesses. Do not try to cut away mold and salvage the remaining cheese, as the spores likely spread throughout. When in doubt, throw it out.
Smell the Feta
Your nose is a great tool for determining if feta crumbles have gone bad. Fresh feta cheese should smell tangy, salty, and mildly acidic.
As feta ages and spoils, it gives off unpleasant odors. Rancid or rotten feta may smell like sour milk or have an ammonia-like odor. There may also be a foul, yeasty smell. If your feta crumbles smell off in any way, do not eat them.
Eyeball the Color and Texture
When feta crumbles go bad, you may notice changes from the normal white color and crumbly yet moist texture. Spoiled feta may develop yellow or brownish discoloration. The texture may also become overly soft, gooey, or slimy rather than mildly firm and crumbly.
If there are any concerning differences in appearance or texture from normal feta, the cheese should be discarded. Significant deterioration in color and texture means spoilage bacteria have taken hold.
Watch for Condensation and Slime
Excess moisture is also a giveaway that your feta crumbles are past their prime. Check the package for water droplets or liquid pooling inside, which signals spoilage.
In advanced stages of spoilage, there may be some slime formation from bacteria breaking down the dairy fats. Any slime development means the feta cheese has gone bad. Discard it right away.
Consider How It Was Stored
Refrigeration and storage conditions also play a key role in feta shelf life. Improperly stored feta is more likely to spoil faster. Here are some storage conditions that can accelerate deterioration:
- Storing feta past the sell-by date or for over 6 weeks
- Keeping feta above 40°F in the fridge
- Letting feta sit out at room temperature more than 2 hours
- Exposing feta to heat by cooking or heating after crumbling
- Opening and resealing the same feta package multiple times
- Contaminating feta by double-dipping with dirty utensils
The warmer the storage conditions or more the feta is handled after opening, the quicker bacteria and molds can multiply. For maximum shelf life, maintain feta crumbles in the coldest part of the refrigerator, store in original packaging, and limit exposure to heat and double-dipping.
Can You Freeze Feta Cheese?
Freezing is an option for extending the shelf life of feta cheese beyond the typical 3-6 weeks after opening. Here are some guidelines for freezing feta crumbles:
How to Freeze Feta
- Make sure feta is not already expired or moldy before freezing.
- Crumb or dice block feta into desired sizes.
- Spread crumbles in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
- Freeze overnight until completely hard.
- Transfer feta crumbles to airtight freezer bag or container.
- Squeeze out excess air and seal.
- Label container with type of cheese and freeze-by date (3 months).
- Store frozen feta in the back of the freezer at 0°F or below.
Thawing and Using Frozen Feta
- Thaw feta crumbles overnight in the refrigerator.
- Use thawed feta within 5-7 days.
- Avoid refreezing any thawed crumbles.
- Use thawed feta crumbles in cooked dishes rather than fresh applications.
- Frozen feta may suffer some texture changes once thawed.
Frozen feta cheese will keep for 2-3 months in the freezer before drying out or developing freezer burn. Handle frozen feta properly for food safety. Thawed feta has a shorter shelf life and works best cooked into casseroles, pastas, and bakes rather than used fresh.
Can Spoiled Feta Make You Sick?
Yes, consuming feta cheese that has spoiled can potentially make you sick. Feta contains live active cultures that continue to ferment as the cheese ages, which makes it more prone to growing harmful bacteria if stored improperly.
Potential illnesses from eating spoiled feta cheese include:
- Listeria monocytogenes – Causes listeriosis with flu-like symptoms
- Salmonella – Causes salmonellosis with diarrhea, fever, and cramps
- E. coli – Results in gastrointestinal distress and dehydration
- Staphylococcus aureus – Leads to intoxication with vomiting and nausea
At-risk groups like pregnant women, children, and elderly should be especially careful about avoiding contaminated soft cheeses like feta. Discard feta immediately if there are any signs it has spoiled. When unsure, following the old adage “when in doubt, throw it out” is wise. Foodborne illnesses are not worth the risk.
Tips for Proper Feta Storage
Storing feta cheese crumbles properly is key to maximizing the shelf life after opening. Here are some storage tips:
- Keep feta in the coldest part of the refrigerator at 35°F or below.
- Make sure feta package is well sealed. Do not let moisture or air in.
- Do not freeze feta unless crumbling first. Freezing in block form causes texture issues.
- Wipe any excess brine off crumbled feta before storing to prevent sogginess.
- Do not store feta in door shelf which may be warmer and lead to faster spoilage.
- Consume feta within 3-6 weeks of opening for best quality and food safety.
- Do not purchase/use feta past its sell-by date.
Following proper storage methods and the sell-by date helps prevent spoilage and foodborne illness from consuming bad feta cheese. Discard immediately at any signs of mold, smell, color changes, or sliminess.
How Can You Use Feta Before It Goes Bad?
To avoid waste, use up any opened feta crumbles within 3-6 weeks of opening. Here are some delicious ways to enjoy fresh feta before it expires:
- Greek Salad – Sprinkle feta over tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and greens.
- Stuffed Vegetables – Fill mushrooms, peppers, or tomatoes with feta.
- Omelets or Frittatas – Add feta crumbles into egg dishes.
- Pasta – Toss feta with cooked pasta, olive oil, tomatoes, basil, and olives.
- Pizza – Top homemade or store-bought pizza crusts with feta.
- Sandwiches – Layer feta on sandwiches made with fresh bread and veggies.
- Flatbreads – Bake feta and herbs on naan or pita.
- Feta Dip – Blend feta, olive oil, garlic, lemon, and herbs.
Using feta to make delicious appetizers, side dishes, sandwiches, and casseroles ensures none goes to waste. Get creative with recipes to use up feta while it’s still fresh and tasty.
|Signs Feta Has Gone Bad||Signs Feta is Still Good|
It is important to store feta cheese properly and check for signs of spoilage before consuming to avoid foodborne illness. Look for mold, slime, off-smells, and unusual color or texture. Discard feta that is past the sell-by date or has been open for over 6 weeks.
To extend shelf life, store feta sealed tightly in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to 4-6 weeks. For longer storage, freeze crumbled feta in airtight bags for 2-3 months. Handle frozen feta properly when thawing and using.
Discard feta crumbles immediately at any sign of spoilage. When unsure if your feta has gone bad, follow the age-old advice of “when in doubt, throw it out.” Eating spoiled feta cheese can cause harmful foodborne illnesses. Stay vigilant about proper storage and signs of spoilage to enjoy feta safely.