Contrary to popular belief, store-bought mayo is one of the safest packaged foods. This is because commercial mayonnaise is carefully formulated with highly acidic ingredients and pasteurized eggs.
Manufacturers are under rigorous quality control procedures. The emulsion composition of mayo contains acidulants such as vinegar and lemon juice.
These create an acidic environment that inhibits bacterial growth. This makes mayo an extremely unlikely source for bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses because it has a very unfavorable environment for microbial growth.
With all these safety precautions, does it mean that it is safe to eat mayo after the expiration date?
The answer depends on what your interpretation of expiry date is. Before I answer whether it is safe to eat mayonnaise after the expiration date or the provisional best before date, you need to first understand what those date markings mean.
So, Yes, You can eat mayo after its best before date. Due to the concentration of vinegar, lemon, and salt, store-bought mayo has a pH of between 3.6 to 4.1. Bacteria do not grow in acidic environments. Therefore, as long as the mayo does not get contaminated, it is safe for consumption months after the expiration date.
This begs the question though, if you cannot use the best by date to determine if mayo is spoiled, how do you protect yourself from unsafe products?
Read on to find out how to stay safe when using mayo past its expiration date.
How Long is Mayonnaise Good After the Expiration Date?
There are many dissenting opinions on how long mayo should be kept after the expiration date. However, if you store your mayonnaise according to the USDA guidelines, the general consensus is that it will last you up to 4 months.
This period can be longer or shorter, mostly depending on storage conditions. For instance, unopened mayonnaise can last for more than a year while staying fresh.
If opened, expired mayo jars will last for 3 to 4 months in a fridge. For expired jars left on the counter, the mayo will last for about 8 hours after which it must be discarded.
How to Tell if Mayonnaise Has Gone Bad
Mayo jars come with a “best before” date. If the date has passed, it does not necessarily mean that the mayo has gone bad.
As such, it is best practice to know how to tell good from bad mayo. Here’s how to tell if mayo has gone bad;
1. Molds and Spores
Signs of organic growth in the mayo may show up as spores or mold. This means that the composition of the emulsion is compromised.
Mayo with mold should be thrown out immediately. Scooping out the spores or transferring the mayo into a new jar won’t save it.
2. Acidic or Putrid Smell
Even though mayo is made with vinegar and lemon, it does not smell like any of the two. An imbalance in the make-up of the oils and acid balance in the emulsion may cause an off odor.
If it starts giving off a putrid smell, it is safe to conclude that the mayo is spoilt. Sometimes, it can also smell like old oil
3. Off Color
One of the best ways to tell that mayo has gone bad is to look at its appearance. Mayo should be near-white to pale yellow. If it loses the white hue and turns overly brown or yellow, it’s time to throw it out.
Does Mayo Bo Bad in the Fridge?
Homemade mayo goes bad in the fridge in under 4 days. This is because it is made with unpasteurized eggs and does not contain the same balance of preservatives as store-bought mayo.
It is advisable to make just enough for quick use since it is highly perishable. On the other hand, commercial mayo can last up to a year without going bad.
An unopened jar of mayo will stay safe and fresh when stored in the fridge while an opened one may not last longer than that.
There’s no hard rule on timelines to determine how long the mayo stays fresh in the fridge. The best practice is to look out for signs of change in color and smell.
What Does Expired Mayo Taste Like?
Here’s a fun fact, an unopened container of mayonnaise could be good indefinitely. That means that well-stored mayo will taste exactly the same even after the expiry date.
If left for over a year, the taste might become a bit oxidized. If your expired mayo tastes any different, it has gone bad.
A sour taste with a vinegar odor is a sign of spoilage. Throw the jar out immediately.
Will Eating Expired Mayonnaise Make You Sick?
It is a strange concept to ignore the expiration date of a product and just keep eating it. And most people would question the wisdom in that.
Eating expired homemade mayo will make you sick. However, store-bought mayonnaise that’s past the expiration date will not make you sick.
What matters is the safety of food preparation. Preparing foods with mayonnaise with the risk of contaminated ingredients will not assure the safety of these combined mixtures.
Food scientist researchers have proven that mayo is safe even past the expiry date as long as safe food preparation procedures are observed.
The acidity in mayo may even help fight off micro bacteria in other foods.
Read Also: Can You Get Sick from Eating a Bad Avocado?
What to Do with Expired Mayonnaise
Remember, expiration or best before dates are a manufacturer’s guide of how long they think the food will be at its best.
An expiration date is not a safety guide. Therefore, the best thing to do with an expired jar of mayo is to keep it in good storage.
Seal it tightly and store it in a cool dry cabinet away from heat. Unopened jars can also go in the pantry. If opened, use a squeeze bottle instead of the wide-mouthed jar the mayo comes in.
This is to avoid cross-contamination from other foods. Clean the squeeze bottle with a paper towel instead of a wet rug. Additionally, look for any indications of spoilage.
Color change, molds, or a change in smell are all indications of mayo gone bad. If none of these signs are present, enjoy a spread of your creamy mayo. It’s perfectly safe.