skip to Main Content

Spoiled Food

Medium Risk

Raw chicken thighs sit on a cutting board on a counter besides tomatoes to represent how uncooked meat can become spoiled food.
Possible Symptoms
  • Stomach cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Mild fever
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
What to Do
  1. Wipe or rinse out mouth.
  2. Give a serving size of water to drink.
  3. Call 1-800-222-1222 for additional instructions.

Additional Information


Quick Facts about spoiled food:

Spoiled food can be contaminated by pathogens (bacteria, parasites, or viruses), which may result in food poisoning, but it does not always result in illness. Many times, the thought of someone eating spoiled food is enough to make a person feel sick, which often occurs within a few seconds or minutes of eating. This is not true food poisoning but a body’s response to the unpleasant food. 

The look, smell, and taste of contaminated food can be normal, giving no warning signs. If you have food that looks “off,” feels slimy, or smells bad, do not take a chance on it, do not eat or drink it.

  • Illness can occur when someone eats raw or undercooked food, including poultry, meats, eggs, and raw fruits and vegetables.  
  • Sometimes, food comes in contact with organisms from feces or vomit, typically when an ill person is preparing the food and they did not wash their hands properly before handling the food.  
  • It can also occur if fruits and vegetables grow in contaminated soil or crops watered with contaminated water.  
  • Another source is unpasteurized dairy, such as milk, soft cheeses, or unpasteurized apple cider. Leaving foods unrefrigerated can reach improper temperatures and lead to the growth of pathogens, which can cause food poisoning.

What will happen if I eat spoiled food?

If eating spoiled food results in foodborne illness, it is unpleasant but will usually go away by itself and will not have lasting effects (self-limited illness). If you have food poisoning, it is important to stay hydrated. Take in small sips of an electrolyte-replacing drink, such as Pedialyte® or Gatorade® for rehydration. Other good fluids are sips of fruit juice or coconut water. Avoid caffeinated fluids such as coffee and tea. Caffeine can further irritate an already irritated stomach. Eat a salty snack along with fluid intake if tolerated.  If there is persistent vomiting, consider calling your healthcare provider to get a prescription for nausea medication for those who are having difficulty keeping liquids down. In general, taking anti-diarrheal agents is not advised without speaking with your healthcare provider first. Vomiting and diarrhea are defense mechanisms the body uses to rid the system of the toxin. The use of these medications can mask symptoms that indicate the severity of the illness, which in turn might delay seeking needed medical care.

Symptoms which indicate medical attention is needed are:

  • Running a fever of > 101.5⁰F.
  • Blood in the stools.
  • Persistent vomiting with dehydration (decrease in urination, very dry mouth, and feeling dizzy when standing).
  • Diarrhea that goes on for > 3 days.

What to do to avoid food poisoning

  1. Washing your hands before and after handling food and in between handling different foods is one of the most important steps you can take while preparing food. The same goes for the equipment, utensils, and countertops.
  2. Wash raw fruits and vegetables under running water. This helps to reduce the amount of a pathogen in the food (if there is any) and, in turn, reduces the chance of becoming ill.
  3. Cook food to the proper temperature using a food thermometer. This helps to kill most bacteria and parasites.
  4. Keep raw, unwashed foods and cooked foods separate from each other. Keep them in separate containers, and don’t use the same utensils on them unless they have been washed properly in between.  Countertops should be treated the same.
  5. Refrigerate food at 40⁰F as soon as possible after it is cooked. Proper refrigeration keeps most types of bacteria from growing to numbers that can cause illness.
  6. If you suspect food poisoning, call 1-800-222-1222 for guidelines and recommendations.

If you find someone has eaten spoiled food, do not panic. Give them some water to drink. If problems start or you have questions, call the Missouri Poison Center right away at 1-800-222-1222. The poison center is open all day, every day, for poisoning emergencies and questions.

**Note: Don’t forget, every case is different. To make sure you are getting the best information for your individual situation, click below to call or chat. It is fast, free, and confidential.

Take The Missouri Poison Center With You

Emergencies don’t wait for you, so you shouldn’t have to wait to call for help. Get the Missouri Poison Center app with poison information and a link to the Poison Help Line. It is just a click away during the most stressful moments. Our registered nurses and pharmacists are here 24/7/365 days a year to help guide you through poison exposures and overdose emergencies.

Don’t wait. Download now.

Graphic illustration of the MPC app on an iPhone home screen
Call Now