Does Lunch Meat Expire Or Go Bad?


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As a kid, almost everyone got peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Now as an adult, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are more of a treat than a sustainable lunch. 

You need more protein and something that isn’t too sweet to fill you up at lunch. 

If you love sandwiches and always have some form of sandwich meat in the house, you could have a few open containers in the fridge at a time. Do the older deli meats in the fridge expire? 

They have a sell-by date on them, does this also mean that they expire then too? 

Lunch meat does have an expiration date. If you leave the meat unopened in the fridge, it can last for about seven to ten days past the sell by date. If the deli meat in the fridge has been opened, it will only last for about five to seven days before beginning to go slimy/smelly. 

Unopened deli meat will last in the freezer for about two to three months before it will begin to get freezer burn. It can still be used after that and won’t make you sick but it won’t taste quite as good. 

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How Can You Tell If Lunch Meat Is Bad? 

Bad meat is a friend to no one’s nose. Having a romantic picnic outside is a great idea until the lunch meat has been sitting out in the sun for a bit too long. You got so carried away talking to each other and enjoying each other’s company and now the lunch meat is no longer as cold as it was when you started the picnic. 

Is there a way to know whether or not the lunch meat is bad? 

Typically, it’s best to use a few of your senses before eating any food that is questionable. You start first with sight to check for any noticeable bacteria like mold. Next, you move to smell. If the food in question no longer smells like it does when fresh, it is most likely bad. 

Lastly, the taste test. Take a tiny bite and if it tastes off in any way, spit it out and throw it all away. 

For lunch meat, the sight test would be checking to see if there is an extreme layer of slime on the deli meat. Also, if the color of the meat appears to be pale or almost gray, it is bad. 

Next, if the color doesn’t look off, but you still aren’t sure, smell the deli meat. If it no longer smells like it did when fresh out of the package, it is bad. 

You can also feel the meat to see if it has an excessive amount of slime on it. If there is a small amount of slime, this is normal. However, if it feels like a dog drooled on your deli meat…it wasn’t a dog, it was bad bacteria. 

If you are still unsure, you can always do a taste test. 

What Happens If You Eat Expired Deli Meat? 

It’s lunchtime, so you go to the fridge and pull out all the ingredients to make your delicious sandwich. After slathering the bread with mustard and mayonnaise, you reach for the deli meat only to see that it appears to have expired a few days before. You already have everything else out ready to add to the sandwich and your bread slices ready for the meat and cheese; is it really that bad if you were to eat deli meat a few days past the expiration date? 

Does anything even happen if you eat expired meat? 

If the meat has been in the fridge for a while, it has a chance to gather all kinds of bad bacteria. Some of these bacteria. like salmonella, listeria, etc, that may have been growing on the deli meat can lead to food poisoning. 

There are different levels of food poisoning as well. Mild food poisoning can be a few days or maybe last for about a week. 

Typically with mild food poisoning, you will experience diarrhea, your body is trying to expel the bad bacteria from the expired deli meat as quickly as possible. Food poisoning can also cause abdominal cramps because your body is working overtime to remove the bad bacteria quickly. 

Another way your body responds to food poisoning and bad bacteria is with vomiting. Your body is doing everything in its power to protect you and expel all the bad bacteria any way it can. You can also end up with a fever since your body is going into overdrive and working very hard to remove the bacteria that was on the expired deli meat. 

If you have eaten expired deli meat and experience these symptoms, be sure to try and drink as much water as possible. The water you drink will help your body as it is fighting both bad bacteria and dehydration. If you find that your symptoms are persisting for more than three days, your fever reaches higher than 101, or there is blood in any of your vomit, urine, or diarrhea, you should seek medical help immediately. 

Why Does Deli Meat Get Slimy? 

When you reach for the meat to make your sandwich, you don’t expect to grab something slimy. The slimy meat starts to make your stomach churn and now you don’t even want the sandwich. 

The only issue is, you just bought this meat. You opened the package yesterday! How is it possible that the deli meat is already slimy? 

Was there a recall on this typical brand of deli meat? Did you really open it yesterday or has it already been a week? 

The reason your deli meat becomes slimy shortly after opening is due to the ingredients that help preserve and flavor it. Chicken does not already come as chipotle or garlic and herb flavored. These flavorings are added to the chicken before it is processed and sliced thin for deli meat. 

There are also other ingredients added to allow the deli meat to last for about a week in the fridge. These fillers and flavors are added before the meat is sliced and packaged. After the meat is sliced, these fillers start to expand and expand in the form of slime on the meat. Even though the deli meat may be a little slimy the day after you open it, it is still safe to eat. 

Final Thoughts

Deli meat does have an expiration date. Deli meat will usually last in the fridge for about five to seven days after being opened. If you do eat some expired deli meat, you may not feel the greatest, but it is just your body’s way of trying to protect you. 

Hannah R.

Hey, I'm Hannah and I'm the founder of Get Eatin'.

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