Is it safe to eat old bread in fridge?

Eating old bread that has been stored in the fridge can be safe, but there are some important factors to consider. Bread that has gone stale from sitting in the fridge for too long may not taste great, but it is usually not dangerous to eat. However, bread that has visible mold growth or has developed a bad smell or taste should be discarded. Here are some quick answers about the safety of eating older refrigerated bread:

Quick Answers

  • Bread stored properly in the fridge will stay fresh for 3-7 days past the sell by date before drying out or getting moldy.
  • Look for visible signs of mold growth, a sour smell, or a bad taste before eating older refrigerated bread.
  • Dry, stale bread is still safe to eat, but the texture and taste quality declines after about 7 days in the fridge.
  • Freezing bread stops additional drying out or mold growth. Thaw frozen bread in the fridge before eating.
  • Old bread is best used for applications where texture is less important, like bread crumbs or croutons.

How Long Does Bread Last in the Fridge?

The shelf life of bread depends on a variety of factors, including the type of bread, ingredients, packaging method, and storage conditions. On average, most commercial sliced breads will stay fresh for 3-7 days past the printed expiration or sell by date if continually stored in the refrigerator. Whole wheat breads tend to go stale faster than white breads. And artisan breads with minimal preservatives mold faster than standard sliced bread.

Proper refrigeration at temperatures below 40°F slows down the starch retrogradation process that causes bread to go stale. It also prevents mold growth. However, over time in the fridge, bread will continue to lose moisture leading to increased dryness and progressively poorer quality texture and mouthfeel.

Storing bread in the refrigerator in plastic bags or airtight containers helps retain moisture and extends its shelf life. Bread stored in the fridge without proper containment dries out much quicker.

General Shelf Life of Bread in the Refrigerator

  • Sliced white bread: 7-10 days past printed date
  • Whole wheat bread: 3-5 days past printed date
  • Artisan breads: 3-5 days past printed date

These timelines assume continual refrigeration. Leaving bread sitting out at room temperature for extended periods during these timeframes accelerates staleing and mold growth.

How to Tell When Refrigerated Bread Is No Longer Good

The following signs indicate bread stored in the fridge should be discarded:

  • Mold growth – Bread that shows spotting or fuzziness from mold should be thrown away. Mold spores penetrate the entire loaf, well beyond just the visible areas.
  • Sour smell – An off or sour aroma indicates spoilage bacteria have contaminated the bread.
  • Bad taste – Stale bread will taste dry and lack freshness, but should not taste unpleasantly bitter, sour, or have an odd flavor.
  • Extreme dryness – Bread that is very dried out and stiff indicates it is past its prime. Safe to eat but poor quality.

Use your senses of sight, smell and taste to determine if refrigerated bread needs to be discarded due to quality concerns or unsafe spoiled conditions.

Is Stale Bread From the Fridge Safe to Eat?

Bread that has dried out and gone stale from extended storage in the refrigerator is still safe to eat, although the texture and taste will progressively decline. Staling is a natural process that involves moisture migration and the retrogradation or crystallization of starches in the bread.

Over time, refrigerated bread loses moisture leading to a firmer, drier texture. The starch retrogradation also causes the bread to be less flexible. Combined, these changes result in bread that appears stale. The transformation is more rapid in whole grain breads compared to processed white breads.

While certainly not as enjoyable as fresh bread, stale loaves are perfectly safe to eat. The growing rigidity and dry feeling of the bread is not a safety concern. Refrigeration prevents any actual spoilage during the staleing process.

Ways to Use Stale Bread

While less ideal for sandwiches or toast, bread that has dried out can still be used in any of the following ways:

  • Bread crumbs or croutons
  • Bread pudding
  • Stuffing or dressing mixes
  • Bread casseroles
  • Garlic bread
  • Bruschetta
  • Bread salad

The changed texture of stale bread becomes less noticeable when enjoyed in these alternate forms. Stale pieces also tend to absorb more moisture, flavors, and seasoning when used in recipes.

Does Freezing Bread Stop Staling?

Freezing bread prevents additional drying out and staling during storage. The cold temperatures halt moisture migration and retrogradation of starches that lead to stale bread. However, freezing does not reverse the staleness if bread is already dried out before freezing.

For best results, bread should be frozen immediately after purchasing instead of storage in the refrigerator first. Well-wrapped loaves can be kept frozen for 2-3 months without deterioration in texture.

Thaw frozen bread in the refrigerator overnight before use. Microwaving causes bread to rapidly dry out. Toasting can help improve the texture of thawed bread if needed.

Take only the amount of bread needed directly from the freezer. Repeated partial thawing and re-freezing of bread accelerates staleing.

Does Old Bread Pose Health Risks?

Eating spoiled, moldy bread could potentially cause health issues. However, stale but unspoiled bread does not present any specific health hazards.

Here are some of the possible health risks of eating bad bread:

  • Foodborne illness – Bread contaminated with dangerous bacteria, yeasts or mold can lead to food poisoning type symptoms if ingested.
  • Allergic reactions – Mold spores can trigger allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
  • Toxicity – Some molds produce mycotoxins that may cause illness.

Simply eating bread that is stale but still free of contamination does not pose significant health risks beyond poor texture and taste.

Who Should Avoid Eating Stale Bread?

There are some groups who may want to avoid heavily dried out and stale bread as a precaution, including:

  • People with dentures or trouble chewing and swallowing
  • Young children
  • The elderly
  • Those with compromised immune systems

The very dry, tough texture of stale bread could present a choking hazard or cause an inflammatory reaction in the gums and mouths of those with dental issues. Young, old, and immunocompromised individuals are also at higher risk of illness from any foodborne bacteria or mold in spoiled bread.

How to Store Bread to Prevent Premature Staling

Follow these tips to keep bread fresher for longer:

  • Allow new loaves to cool completely before refrigerating or freezing.
  • Use plastic bags or airtight containers to prevent drying out.
  • Freeze extras immediately to halt staling.
  • Thaw frozen bread in the fridge, not at room temperature.
  • Press out air and seal bags/containers tightly.
  • Don’t refrigerate cut loaves more than a day or two.
  • Limit moisture loss by twisting tie on bagged bread.

Keeping bread away from air exposure, high temperatures, and moisture loss prevents it from drying out and staling as fast. Refrigeration, freezing, and proper packaging helps extend shelf life.


Eating stale bread that has been properly stored in the refrigerator is not hazardous. While not as enjoyable as fresh bread, it is still edible. However, bread that has visible mold growth, a foul smell, or unpleasant taste should always be discarded.

With adequate containment and refrigeration, most breads stay fresh for 3-7 days past the printed date before significant drying and staling occurs. Freezing bread stops the staling process for even longer storage. Reconditioning stale bread by using it in recipes helps compensate for the degradation in texture and mouthfeel.

Let your senses guide you. Bread that passes the sight, smell and taste tests should be fine. When in doubt, remember stale does not equal spoiled. But any visible spoilage signs mean tossing out the loaf.

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