How to Tell If Food Has Gone Bad

Eating fresh food is important for you and your family to stay safe from dangerous bacteria. Use these tips to recognize when food goes bad.


Up next in Food Safety & Freshness (34 videos)

Prevent food poisoning and food-borne illnesses with the advice in this Howcast video series.

You Will Need

  • Sense of sight
  • Sense of smell
  • Sense of touch


  1. Step 1

    Check the expiration date

    Check the expiration date on the product to determine its shelf-life.

  2. Step 2

    Avoid sticky and slimy meat

    Avoid meat and poultry that is slimy, tacky to the touch, or that emits a bad odor.

  3. Fading or darkening meat can also indicate spoilage.

  4. Step 3

    Smell fish for freshness

    Smell fish for freshness. Fish should be odorless, have no signs of yellowing, and should not curl at the edges.

  5. Step 4

    Get rid of potatoes

    Get rid of potatoes that have a wrinkly appearance, are discolored, or develop sprouts.

  6. Step 5

    Throw away canned food

    Throw away canned foods that are leaking, bulging, or have a foul smell. These are indications of botulism.

  7. Step 6

    Toss milk

    Toss milk that has a bad odor or the consistency of yogurt.

  8. Step 7

    Discard fruits and vegetables

    Discard fruits and vegetables that are wilting, mushy, slimy, or smell bad.

  9. Each year 76 million people in the United States become sick with food-borne illnesses.