Bacon is a delicious food item that makes many people’s breakfast. However, it can be hard to determine if bacon has spoiled.
If you regularly prepare bacon, you might have seen the “sell by” or “use by” date on its packaging. This date isn’t always the best indicator of whether bacon is safe to eat. So, does bacon go bad?
Can Bacon Go Bad?
Yes, bacon does go bad. Bacon is a perishable food item that has a shelf life. Its longevity depends on:
- The way you store it
- Its sell-by date
- The preparation method
Bacon can stay fresh one to two weeks after its sell-by date. Of course, this period varies depending on the packaging and storage conditions.
Expiry Period for Bacon
If you store unopened bacon in the refrigerator, it can last for up to two weeks. If you freeze the bacon, it can stay for eight months before it goes bad.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, open and raw bacon lasts for seven days if you store it in the fridge. If you freeze the bacon, it can last for four months before it begins to spoil.
Cooked bacon has a relatively short shelf life compared to uncooked. Cooked bacon can only stay fresh for four to five days under refrigeration. It can last for approximately a month in the freezer.
The shelf life also varies depending on the type of bacon.
Unopened bacon bits can last up to six months if you store them in a freezer or a refrigerator. Open bacon bits can stay good for only six weeks in the fridge.
You can store Canadian bacon for only four to five days in the fridge. This bacon can last for approximately eight weeks if you freeze it.
Bacon varieties like poultry, pancetta, and beef can stay fresh for about seven days in the fridge and four months in the freezer.
Canned bacon can stay in the pantry for two to five years, provided you don’t open it. If you open it, it will remain fresh for three to four days in the fridge.
Dry-cured bacon can last for ten days in the pantry. You can extend its longevity to four weeks by storing it in the fridge.
How to Tell Bacon Has Gone Bad
Sometimes bacon contains preservatives like nitrites to mask its spoilage. However, with closer inspection, you can tell if bacon has gone bad. Here are the things you should check.
The Bacon’s Look
A visual inspection can immediately tell you whether bacon is stale. Fresh bacon has a reddish or pinkish hue. You might also notice some white streaks of fat.
If you spot brownish, greyish, or greenish color, you should know your meat has spoiled. Rotten bacon might sometimes develop blue or white spots. These are signs of mold infestation. Do not consume bacon that has moldy flecks.
Bacon that is going bad has a rotten, fishy smell. If you notice any sour or off odors, it might be time to dispose of your bacon.
When you touch fresh bacon, you should feel its soft, moist texture. If the surface is sticky or slimy, it might indicate rotten bacon. If you encounter such meat, toss it off immediately.
If you cannot use the above methods, you can check the bacon’s sell-by date. Bacon usually goes bad one week after its sell-by date. This timeframe might be shorter for cooked or unrefrigerated bacon.
You shouldn’t confuse this date with the “use by” date. The “use by” date is the manufacturer’s guidance. It marks the last day you should use the bacon. Retailers are forbidden to sell meat that has exceeded this date.
What Causes Bacon to Go Bad?
There’s only one answer to the question, does bacon go bad. Of course, bacon goes bad.
Two things cause bacon to spoil, bacteria and rancidity.
Different bacteria attack bacon and cause its spoilage. Some predominant ones include Escherichia Coli, Campylobacter, Listeria, Staphylococcus aureus, and Yersinia.
These bacteria don’t break down the primary protein structure of bacon. Instead, they target free amino acids, glucose, and other nitrogenous compounds. And since they reproduce quickly, they can form large colonies in a short time.
Bacteria colonies significantly hamper the quality of bacon. Bacon may discolorize, develop sour tastes, slime, and other off-flavors.
Temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F favor the growth of bacteria. Unfortunately, these are room temperatures. Your bacon will spoil if it sits at room temperature for more than two hours.
Since bacon contains fat, it’s susceptible to rancidity. When you expose bacon to light and oxygen, the fat in the bacon hydrolyzes and creates unwanted tastes and odors.
How to Store Bacon Properly
Bacon can stay fresh if you store it in suitable packaging and ideal conditions.
As a rule of thumb, never store bacon at room temperature. If you do so, you’ll be exposing the meat to plenty of oxygen, which causes rancidity. Bacteria also thrive at room temperature and will accelerate the rotting process.
The best place to keep your bacon is in the fridge or freezer.
In the Refrigerator
The fridge is the ideal place to safely store opened, closed, raw, cooked, canned, cured, or leftover bacon. Ensure the fridge temperature is below 40 ˚F.
If you have uncooked bacon that’s opened, you might need to wrap it in tin foil before transferring it to the refrigerator.
If you don’t have a foil, place the bacon in a tightly sealed container, then store it in the fridge. But how long is bacon good for in the fridge?
Bacon should stay fresh for about seven days in the refrigerator.
For cooked bacon, slice them into small portions, then store them in freezer bags or airtight containers. Remember to cool the hot bacon before placing it in freezer bags. Once in the fridge, the cooked bacon will stay fresh for about four days.
In the Freezer
You should store bacon in the freezer if you want to preserve it for a very long period. Most freezers operate at below 0 ˚F and will keep cooked bacon edible for a month. Uncooked bacon can last for six months in the freezer.
When storing bacon, you need to use vacuum-sealed bags. If air is present in the packaging, it might cause contamination or freezer burn.
Freezing might alter the taste of cooked bacon. That’s why it’s advisable not to freeze cooked meat for more than two months.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you should never freeze unsliced slabs of bacon. Freezing can quicken the rancidity of this type of bacon.
You can safely store unopened bacon bits and canned bacon in the pantry. These food items require refrigeration once you open them.
Is it Safe to Consume Expired Bacon?
Like most meat products, it isn’t safe to consume expired bacon. Rotten bacon is extremely dangerous to your health and can result in food poisoning.
Expired bacon harbors pathogens and parasites like:
- Toxoplasma gondii parasite
- Escherichia coli
When you ingest these bacteria and parasites, you might get sick. Common symptoms from eating bacon that has gone bad include:
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
You might also fall ill from conditions like:
Toxoplasmosis is a flu-like infection caused by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. This parasite is common in expired meat products such as bacon.
Although this disease is harmless, it might cause severe complications to expectant mothers. The best way to avoid Toxoplasmosis is to stop devouring expired bacon.
Botulism is a serious illness that causes muscle paralysis, difficulty breathing, and improper functioning of nerves. You can contract this life-threatening illness if you eat rotten bacon.
Spoiled bacon contains bacteria known as clostridium botulinum. Over time, these bacteria multiply and create toxins, which cause botulism.
You might contract Trichinosis if you eat unrefrigerated bacon.
Raw, rotting bacon creates the perfect living environment for the worm trichinella spiralis. You fall ill whenever you ingest the larvae of this worm. Trichinosis isn’t a fatal disease. However, it can be dangerous when the worm’s larvae target vital body organs.
So, does bacon go bad? Yes, bacon goes bad, but its longevity depends on where you store it. The shelf life of bacon in fridges is about one to two weeks after its sell-by date. Bacon in freezers can stay up to six months without spoiling.