13 Foods You Should Never Risk Eating After Their Expiration Dates

13 Foods You Should Never Risk Eating After Their Expiration Dates AI-generated Image

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13 Foods You Should Never Risk Eating After Their Expiration Dates AI-generated Image
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Food Safety 101

If you've ever woken up with a craving for cereal only to head to the fridge and find expired milk, you know the frustration. While some foods like dried pasta or canned goods may still be safe to consume if stored properly, others pose significant health risks if eaten after their expiration dates. Products like dairy and cold cuts are prone to harmful bacterial growth, and consuming these after their due dates can lead to food poisoning, stomachaches, or other health issues. 

Expiration dates are not just for show and serve as important guidelines for ensuring food safety and quality. Here are 13 foods you should never risk eating past their expiration dates to prevent foodborne illnesses. 

Pouring milk into a drinking glass

1. Milk

We get it — who hasn't given expired milk a whiff and decided to risk it all? But the truth is that gambling with dairy products is just not worth it. Milk can harbor bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria, which can proliferate rapidly after the expiration date. These bacteria can cause severe gastrointestinal issues like cramping and diarrhea, fever, and, in rare cases, more serious complications. 

Fruit flavoured pink yogurt in white plastic cups on bright purple background with silver foil lid - Top view photo of yoghurt cup background with selective focus

2. Yogurt

Like milk, yogurt — both homemade or store-bought — can become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria as it spoils. This is because of the live probiotics it carries as well as its high moisture content. Consuming expired yogurt can lead to symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and nausea.

Various cheese on board
Dry pork meat with rosemary
Marko Jan/istockphoto
Extra Lean Ground Beef

5. Fresh Meat and Poultry

Fresh meat like pork chops, ground meat, chicken, and turkey can harbor Salmonella, E. coli, and other harmful pathogens. After the expiration dates, the risk of contamination increases, which can result in severe foodborne illnesses. 

In fact, a study by the University of Arizona found that a significant percentage of chicken (87.6%) and turkey (90.7%) products purchased from grocery stores in Flagstaff were contaminated with E. coli. That's why it's also important to pay attention to proper handling and cooking of poultry to avoid cross-contamination with other ingredients and kitchen appliances. 

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Fresh salmon steak with a variety of seafood and herbs.
Olesia Shadrina/istockphoto

6. Seafood

Seafood, especially shellfish and salmon, can contain harmful bacteria and viruses when consumed past their expiration dates. Eating expired seafood can result in a nasty bout of food poisoning, including vomiting, cramping, and diarrhea. If you notice that your seafood smells "fishy, sour, or ammonia-like," toss it out right away, advises the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), eating raw fish can also increase the risk of Anisakiasis, or herring worm disease. This is a "parasitic disease caused by nematodes (worms) that attach to the wall of the esophagus, stomach, or intestine." Yikes! Guess we'll avoid sashimi from here on out.

Related: 15 Things You Should Always Keep in the Fridge

Closeup macro of pasture raised farm fresh dozen brown eggs store bought from farmer in carton box container with speckled eggshells texture

7. Eggs

Expired eggs risk being contaminated with Salmonella both on the shell and inside the egg, which can make you sick. If you're wondering whether those eggs in the fridge are still safe to eat, you can do the float test to evaluate them. Fresh eggs will sink and lay flat on their sides. Eggs that have gone bad will start to float due to the enlargement of the air cell inside the shell. These should be tossed. 

Related: Cage-Free vs. Free-Range Eggs: Are Specialty Eggs Worth the Extra Cash?

Boxes with pre-packaged vegetable salads in a commercial fridge

8. Prepared Salads

Pre-packaged salads, especially ones that contain perishable products like tuna, eggs, and sliced chicken, can become a hotbed for bacteria. These salads often also contain perishable dairy ingredients like mayonnaise and ranch, which can make them even more susceptible to bacterial growth — especially when stored improperly or kept at room temperature for extended periods.

Fruit Juice

9. Fruit and Vegetable Juices

Because many fresh vegetable or fruit juices like freshly-squeezed OJ are made without the use of preservatives, they can quickly spoil and become unsafe to drink. Consuming expired vegetable or fruit juices can lead to foodborne illnesses with symptoms that include vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. 

Set of rainbow uramaki sushi rolls with avocado

10. Sushi

Sushi, particularly ones containing raw fish, are highly perishable and susceptible to bacterial growth and harmful parasites. The risk of consuming expired sushi includes severe food poisoning because bacteria and parasites can multiply rapidly in raw fish if not stored correctly. 

To minimize this risk, consider freezing raw fish for at least 24 hours before consumption. This process, known as "freezing for parasite destruction," is recommended by the FDA to effectively kill parasites and reduce the risk of foodborne illness. 

Related: 8 Methods You Should Never Use To Thaw Out Frozen Food

Micro Greens

11. Sprouts or Micro-greens

Sprouts and micro-greens, such as alfalfa, arugula, or bean sprouts, are often eaten raw — making them a higher risk for bacterial contamination, including Salmonella and E. coli. The humid conditions required to grow sprouts are ideal for bacteria growth, and this risk increases past their expiration date. 

Asian woman stored leftovers food in plastic container put into refrigerator.
1shot Production/istockphoto

12. Cooked Leftovers

Cooked leftovers, if not eaten within a safe timeframe (generally within 3-4 days), can harbor bacteria like Listeria or Bacilluscereus. The risk of contamination and foodborne illness increases with time — even when refrigerated. While you're at it, check out our guide for how to reheat foods safely to preserve taste and texture. 


13. Cream-Based Products

Dairy-derived products like heavy whipping cream, sour cream, and cream cheese can become contaminated with bacteria and spoil quickly. When spoiled, these products can develop a strong odor, sour taste, and may separate or become chunky. Toss them out right away if you notice any of these signs. 

Related: How Long You Have To Safely Eat Unrefrigerated Foods