Eating expired food is generally not recommended. However, with proper storage, some foods may still be safe to eat even after the expiration date has passed. This is particularly true for bread that has been refrigerated.
Can you eat expired bread if refrigerated?
Yes, it can be okay to eat expired bread if it has been continuously refrigerated. The cold temperature of the refrigerator helps slow down the growth of mold and bacteria. So refrigerated bread may still be edible for some time after the printed expiration date.
How long past the expiration date is refrigerated bread still good?
As a general rule, refrigerated bread can be safely eaten up to 1 week past the printed expiration date, provided it was stored properly. The fridge temperature should be 40°F or below to slow microbial growth. If the bread smells and looks normal with no visible mold, it should be fine to eat.
What happens when bread expires?
Bread has a relatively short shelf life due to its moisture content. Over time, the starches start retrograding, causing the bread to become firm and stale. Mold growth is another common sign of expired bread. This is caused by bread spores in the air that start growing once the bread is no longer fresh.
Here are some changes that occur as bread expires:
- Staling – bread becomes dry and tough
- Mold growth – green/blue fuzzy spots appear
- Off smells – sour, yeasty, musty odors develop
- Taste changes – flavor becomes stale
What are the risks of eating expired refrigerated bread?
Eating spoiled, moldy bread could potentially cause illness. Bread may host bacteria such as Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcous aureus, and Escherichia coli, which can cause food poisoning symptoms if consumed in large amounts.
Some common risks include:
- Food poisoning – nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Allergic reaction – rash, breathing issues (from mold)
- Foodborne illness – salmonella, E. coli
Moldy bread may also contain mycotoxins that can have toxic effects. However, food safety experts generally agree bread stored in the refrigerator poses a low risk compared to room temperature bread.
How to tell if refrigerated bread is still good
Check for these signs to determine if refrigerated bread is still safe to eat:
- No mold – no fuzzy green/blue spots
- No off smells – no sour, yeasty, or musty odor
- Normal texture – no hard, dried areas
- Normal color – no green discoloration
- Tastes fine – no stale flavor
As long as there are no signs of spoilage, refrigerated bread that is past its date may still be perfectly safe to eat. Trust your senses. If the bread smells and looks normal, it should be fine.
Tips for storing bread to extend shelf life
Proper storage is key for maximizing the shelf life of bread. Here are some tips:
- Keep bread at room temperature up to 3 days after purchase.
- To extend freshness longer, refrigerate bread. This slows mold growth.
- Make sure fridge temperature is set to 40°F or below.
- Store bread in a plastic bag to prevent drying out.
- Freeze extra loaves and thaw as needed.
- Avoid repeated refrigeration which causes bread to stale faster.
- Do not refrigerate bread longer than 5-7 days.
How to freeze bread
Freezing can substantially prolong the shelf life of bread. To freeze bread:
- Ensure bread is fresh, not already expired.
- Allow bread to cool completely after baking.
- Slice bread if desired. Slice bread when partially thawed if using for sandwiches.
- Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, foil, or place in freezer bag.
- Eliminate as much air as possible.
- Label package with type and date.
- Freeze for up to 3 months.
- Thaw at room temperature or toast from frozen.
Can you refreeze thawed bread?
Previously frozen bread should not be refrozen after thawing. When bread is thawed and then refrozen, moisture loss and textural changes are accelerated.
The quality will degrade much quicker with repeated freezing cycles. Stale, dry bread will result. For best quality and safety, thaw only the amount of bread you plan to consume.
What to do with stale expired bread
Stale, expired bread that has been continuously refrigerated can be revived. Try these methods:
- Toast it – Toasting helps crisp up the bread and improves texture.
- Bake it – Bake bread for 5-10 minutes to restore moisture and soften.
- Microwave it – Zap bread for 10-20 seconds to soften.
- Broil it – Broil or grill bread 1-2 minutes per side to refresh.
If the bread is too dried out or moldy, it’s safest to discard it. But bread that’s just slightly stale from the fridge can be refreshed and eaten.
Uses for expired bread
Stale, expired bread that has been continuously refrigerated can also be repurposed. Try using it for these dishes rather than eating it plain:
- Bread pudding
- Stuffing or croutons
- Bread crumbs
- French toast
- Turkey meatloaf
- Garlic bread
The extra moisture added while cooking these dishes helps soften and improve the texture of the bread. Expired bread can be given new life in flavorful recipes.
Is moldy bread safe to eat if you cut off the mold?
No, it is generally unsafe to eat bread if mold is already present. Mold can send threadlike roots deep into the bread, so you may not see the extent of contamination. Eat moldy bread at your own risk.
Mold also makes toxins that can cause illness. It’s best to discard fully molded bread. Don’t try to cut off the moldy sections and eat the rest.
Can you get food poisoning from expired bread?
It’s unlikely to get food poisoning from bread that’s merely expired if it has been continuously refrigerated. However, if the bread shows signs of mold or spoilage, illness is possible since dangerous bacteria may be present.
Potential pathogens include Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, and E. coli. If contaminated bread is eaten, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea could result.
Minimize your risk by inspecting bread carefully and discarding any that smells or looks off. Properly stored, quality bread that’s just past its date should not pose major safety issues.
Is it safe to eat very expired bread?
Bread that is many weeks or months past the printed date should not be considered safe to eat. The starch retrogradation, moisture migration, and potential mold growth make very expired bread unpalatable and more likely to cause foodborne illness.
Exceptions could be unopened, commercially prepared bread products that contain preservatives. For example, unopened packages of sliced white sandwich bread or buns may last 2 weeks beyond the date. But it’s still best to inspect them closely before eating.
When in doubt, remember this rule: Don’t eat bread that is more than 1 week past the printed date.
Does putting bread in the freezer make it last forever?
No, freezing bread does not make it last forever. Its shelf life is increased compared to refrigeration but is still limited.
Properly frozen bread may last 6-12 months with minimal quality deterioration. Frozen bread is safe indefinitely, but will eventually become too stale or dry. For highest quality, use frozen bread within 3 months.
Make sure frozen bread is well wrapped. Monitor it and discard if you see ice crystals or freezer burn, which indicate the bread has dried out in spots.
Eating expired food is risky. But bread that has been continuously refrigerated has a slightly extended window of safe consumption compared to room temperature bread. Refrigeration helps slow the staling process and mold growth.
Checking for mold, off smells, and other signs of spoilage can further minimize risk. While fresher is always better, bread that’s up to 1 week past its printed date can reasonably be eaten if it was properly refrigerated and shows no obvious signs of spoilage.
Freezing also extends shelf life for several months. With good freezer maintenance and food safety practices, bread that seems expired can often still be enjoyed safely and deliciously.