21 Telltale Signs Your Food Has Gone Bad And Should Be Avoided At All Costs

signs food has gone bad

It happens to all of us (probably at least once a week.) You forget when you bought a particular item of food. It’s sitting in your fridge or your pantry, and you stand there, staring at it, wondering if it’s still safe to eat or if it’s something that’s going to make you feel pretty terrible later on.

Sometimes, it’s really easy to see that your food has gone bad and needs to be tossed. It might be covered in mold, or it’s emitting an absolutely horrible smell, and you can tell immediately that you shouldn’t put it anywhere near your mouth.

But it’s not always easy to know when you should throw food out or not!

Sometimes, there’s only a small amount of mold, and you might think you can still eat the rest of it. Sometimes it looks kind of weird, but you don’t know if that means it’s actually bad or just getting old. And you can’t always go by expiration dates, either.

If you pay attention, you’ll notice that sometimes food is past the expiration date, but still seems perfectly fine (and it definitely could be!) Other times, it’s well before the expiration date, and it’s already gone south. So, how do you know if your food has gone bad or not?

Look out for these telltale signs and avoid doing something you’ll regret later:

1. Your eggs float in water.


The protective shell around an egg means it can be hard to tell whether or not it’s still good.

You may have heard about the water test with eggs.

You can put an egg in a glass of water, and if it drops to the bottom, it’s fresh; if it floats to the top, it’s gone bad.

According to the USDA, though, this isn’t always true.

Sometimes, even if it’s floating, it’s fine — it’s just a little on the older side, and that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. If it floats, make sure to sniff the yolk.


A spoiled egg will not smell good, before or after it’s cooked.

Healthline explains, “Eggs that have been graded by the USDA are required to show the ‘pack date’ on the carton…

“…this is the day that the eggs were graded, washed and packaged. But you may not recognize it if you don’t know what to look for.”

Keeping eggs refrigerated is also a great way to preserve the quality and prevents bacterial growth.

2. Veggies are yellow-ish.


Take a long look at your fresh veggies, especially green veggies.

They should look, well… the color they’re supposed to be (so, broccoli should be green, zucchini should be green, and red peppers should be red).

Green vegetables will naturally wilt after a couple days, especially after they’re unpackaged. This doesn’t mean they are spoiled.

If you notice a yellow color, then, they’re probably past their date. As veggies deteriorate, their coloring changes or fades to yellow.

One excellent tip to revitalize your vegetables includes soaking their stems in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes.


If it’s not working, however, you’ve got to know when to toss them and move on.

3. Your canned goods have lots of dents.


Canned goods are supposed to basically last forever… right?

Well, not really. You can tell if a canned food has gone bad by first looking at the outside of the can.

If it is very dented, broken, or features a sign of compromise in the structure (like a tiny crack), whatever is inside could easily be contaminated.

And never eat canned food if the lid is damaged or not properly sealed! Bad canned food can cause botulism — a serious illness that greatly affects the body’s nerves — which can be fatal, so don’t take it lightly.

4. Your potatoes have green skin.


Potatoes last a very long time, especially when kept in the right conditions… but they don’t last forever.

Take a good look at them. If they have a greenish tint to the skin, that could mean they’ve expired. Green skin on a potato could be fine, or it could be a sign that the potato is producing solanine.

Too much solanine can make you really, really sick, and could even lead to paralysis.

That’s why, a lot of the time, people will just play it better safe than sorry and throw out green potatoes instead of cutting off the bits that are discolored.

5. Rice has been in the fridge for more than six days.

Rice is yet another food item that seems like it lasts forever.

And dry rice does last a really long time!

But cooked rice definitely has a shelf life. Cooked rice is safe to eat if it’s been properly stored in the fridge for about four to six days.

Any time past six days, it should be thrown out. Rice that’s been sitting for a long time can grow a bacteria called Bacillus cereus, which can survive any reheating process and cause food poisoning.

6. It has mold on it.

One of the most obvious signs that your food is no longer fit to be eaten is that it has mold on it.

Sometimes, you can trim off that mold and eat the rest of the food that seems fine. But in general, you should toss food that has gone moldy.

The United States Department of Agriculture says, “When a food shows heavy mold growth, ‘root’ threads have invaded it deeply.”

“In dangerous molds, poisonous substances are often contained in and around these threads. In some cases, toxins may have spread throughout the food,” the USDA added.

Again, better safe than sorry!

7. It smells pretty bad.


The other most obvious sign is the smell.

If a food item smells differently than it did when you bought it, or if it doesn’t smell like what it’s supposed to smell like, it has probably gone bad.

This is especially true for dairy products. In other words, trust your nose — if you recoil at the smell of a certain food, then do not take a bite.

8. There’s a slimy film on top.


Unless you’re eating a food that is supposed to be slimy, your food, uh, should not be slimy!

If you open up old deli meat or grab a vegetable out of the produce drawer, and you notice a film of slime on top, toss it.

Popsugar also warns, “Any odd or off smells of vinegar, ammonia, or yeast mean it’s time to throw out the turkey, pastrami, or ham.”

Sadly, cold cuts just don’t last more than three to five days.

This means the bacterial population is growing, and that slime could make you sick.

9. Your meat is an odd color.


Take a good look at your food if you’re trying to determine whether it’s gone bad or not — especially when it comes to meat.

This can be a bit tricky. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, meat should be red… however, meat steak that is a brownish color could be just fine, especially if it’s wrapped in plastic.

If oxygen doesn’t penetrate that far into the meat, it can make it look brown, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. But if you notice your meat is extremely dark or looks greenish, that probably means it’s gone bad.

Use your best judgement!

10. Your fruit is mushy.


Fruit goes bad pretty quickly, and oftentimes will grow mold or look odd when that happens.

But another telltale sign you shouldn’t eat a piece of fruit is if it’s very mushy.

Fruit shouldn’t be falling apart in your hand. If it’s really mushy, that means it’s taken a turn.

11. Seafood smells like fish.

It sounds silly to say that if your fish smells fishy, it’s probably gone bad… but it’s true (and confusing).

There are some seafood items that naturally smell a little fishy, and that’s okay. But if your fish smells unpleasantly fishy, it’s probably gone bad — like if it smells sour or like ammonia.

Fresh seafood should smell like the ocean, or just mildly like fish. Trust your nose on this one!

12. There is frost all over your frozen food.

It’s easy to assume that frozen food lasts forever, but that’s not true.

While the freezer can definitely extend the life of your frozen foods, it doesn’t keep them edible forever.

According to the USDA, food kept consistently at 0°F will always be safe — it’s just the quality of the food that will suffer

But when you open the door a lot, temperature can fluctuate, and things do go bad.

According to Insider, frozen food that has ice crystals or frost all over it, to the point where you can barely see the item, means there has been “temperature abuse,” which could mean the food came above freezing and was then re-frozen at some point.

Freezer burn happens as water molecules inside your food work their way out of the food toward colder areas of the freezer (like the walls). This results in the loss of moisture and means the taste and texture won’t be as good when you heat it up.


You’re better off tossing it.

13. Your shellfish is dead.

When it comes to shellfish, you have to be super careful about food safety.

Bad shellfish can make someone really, really sick for days on end. It’s not fun! One rule of thumb is to check to see if your shellfish has died already.

If you’re eating oysters, mussels, or clams tap them gently — if they don’t close, that means they’re dead.

A smell will also tell you, but you should generally avoid shellfish that seems dead.

14. Your bread has even just a small amount of mold.


A lot of people assume that if you notice your bread is moldy, you can cut off the moldy piece and enjoy the rest of the loaf.

That’s not really accurate.

According to Healthfully, even a small amount of mold can mean that mold has penetrated other areas of the bread too — so even if you only see it on some of the bread, that doesn’t mean the rest hasn’t been infected as well.

15. Olive oil doesn’t smell like olives.

Olive oil is another food that doesn’t last forever, even if you thought it did.

A good rule of thumb: If it doesn’t smell like, well, olives, it’s probably bad.

According to The Daily Meal, bad olive oil will smell like glue or motor oil.



So, now’s the time to give that bottle that’s been sitting in your cabinet a good sniff.

16. Your chicken is grayish.

Just like you can tell that red meat is bad by discoloration, you can tell if chicken has gone bad by its color.

According to Tasting Table, chicken should be a light pink color. If it starts to look gray, throw it out.

The discoloration means bacteria is growing and the chicken is past its prime, even if it doesn’t smell too bad.

17. Your almond milk looks thicker than normal.


Cow’s milk obviously goes bad pretty quickly, but non-dairy milk?

It can take a little longer.

Still, it’s definitely not immune to going off. According to Epicurious, if your almond milk (or other non-dairy options) looks chunky and strange, if it smells bad, or if it starts to develop a film, it’s time to get rid of it.

18. There’s brown under the stem of the avocado.

Sometimes you can tell if an avocado is bad if it feels super mushy, but it’s not always easy to tell if it’s just perfectly ripe or not.

Instead of just feeling the avocado, peel off the stem.

If there’s brown under the stem, that means the avocado is overripe. If the stem won’t come off, the fruit isn’t ripe enough to be eaten yet.

19. Your cantaloupe is too soft.

You might think that cantaloupe is good if it feels soft — after all, you don’t want really hard melon.

But actually, if it’s too soft or has too many soft spots, that means it’s bad.

And if there’s any liquid seeping out, that also means it’s gone bad. So basically, it’s not too hard to tell if a cantaloupe is done for.

20. Mushrooms are darker.


When looking for perfect mushrooms, pick ones that are lighter in color.

As they get darker, that means they’re starting to go bad — lighter means they’re more fresh.

You can probably cook darker mushrooms, but they won’t taste as good as those lighter in color, and could definitely be past their prime.

21. Spices are faded.

Spices last forever, right?

Well, not really. When spices go bad, they probably won’t make you sick (unless they’re very, very old), but they won’t taste as fresh and won’t have a great flavor.

You can tell if they’re too old if they start to fade in color, and if they don’t smell very fragrant anymore.

Remember: When it comes to food safety, it’s better to be extra cautious.

You don’t want to get sick!


If your food smells or looks wrong, there’s a good chance it’s bad, so don’t eat it. Just be careful out there.

22. Discolored tips.


The state of your asparagus can be assessed by looking at the tip. The tip is usually the first part to go bad. It will turn dark green or black, and it will become mushy or slimy.

If this happens, you can still eat the asparagus if you cut off the tips and just cook the stems.

If the whole asparagus has turned dark green or black, throw it out and don’t eat it.

23. Your carrots are mushy or slimy.


Despite having a longer shelf life compared to other vegetables, they can turn soft and soggy.

Most carrots will keep in the pantry for at least 3 to 5 days.

If you do decide to freeze them, you shouldn’t freeze if they’re raw.

Most chefs agree you can “cut out a few smaller dark spots and use the rest,” but “any signs of mold or the veggie developed a slimy film,” toss them out.

Carrots should be crunchy and firm. If they’ve soften prematurely, opt to cook or steam them.

24. Expired baking soda won’t be as fizzy.


There’s an easy trick to test if your baking soda has expired, and it involves seeing if the chemical leaveners still react to temperature and other ingredients.

According to Thekitchn, “All you have to do is drop a little bit of the baking soda or baking powder into hot water (and vinegar if testing baking soda) and look for a bubbling reaction!”

If there’s still a fizzle, it’s still good!

25. Vegetables will begin “sprouting.”


According to Rachael Ray, “When potatoes sprout, the starch in the potatoes is converted into sugar.”

If the potato is firm, the nutrients are still intact and can be eaten after removing the sprouted part.

If the potato is shrunken and wrinkled, it’s no longer edible.

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