What Happens if You Eat Bad Feta Cheese

I love a good Greek salad with crumbly feta cheese, kalamata olives, and a tangy vinaigrette. But there’s nothing worse than realizing you may have just eaten feta cheese that’s gone bad. As I learned the hard way, eating spoiled feta can cause some really unpleasant symptoms.

If you’ve ever bitten into a piece of feta that tastes oddly bitter or smells funky, you know what I’m talking about. So what actually happens if you eat rancid feta cheese? And how can you avoid getting sick from eating feta that’s gone bad in the first place?

In this article, I’ll walk you through the signs of spoiled feta, the dangerous bacteria that can grow, what to expect if you eat bad feta cheese, and how to make sure the feta you’re eating is fresh and safe. Let’s start with how to check if your feta has gone bad.

How to Tell if Feta Cheese Has Gone Bad

It’s important to watch for signs that your feta may have spoiled before you eat it. Here are the main things to look for:

Appearance: Fresh feta is white, crumbly and firm. If you see spots of blue, green or black mold, that’s a sign the feta has gone bad. Feta that looks wet, slimy or discolored is also spoiled.

Texture: Good feta should be somewhat firm and crumbly. If your feta is mushy, watery or overly soft, it has likely gone bad.

Smell: Fresh feta has a tangy, salty smell. If your feta smells sour, bitter, rancid or pungent, that indicates spoilage.

Taste: Properly stored feta tastes salty, tangy and savory. If you taste bitterness, sourness or detect a rancid flavor, the feta cheese has gone bad.

Trust your senses. If the feta looks, smells or tastes off in any way, play it safe and throw it out. Don’t risk eating feta that shows signs of spoilage.

What Happens if You Eat Bad Feta Cheese?

So why is it so important to avoid consuming feta cheese that’s gone bad? Eating spoiled feta can expose you to some really nasty bacteria that cause foodborne illness. The main culprits include:

Listeria: This bacteria loves to grow on soft cheeses like feta. Listeria can cause vomiting, fever and diarrhea. It’s especially dangerous for pregnant women, newborns and the elderly.

Salmonella: Known for causing major digestive upset, salmonella bacteria are found in many dairy products. Eating feta contaminated with salmonella can lead to bad diarrhea, cramps and dehydration

E. Coli: This common foodborne bacteria can easily contaminate cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, like improperly prepared feta. E. coli causes severe vomiting and diarrhea.

In otherwise heathy adults, symptoms from these foodborne pathogens tend to resolve on their own. But food poisoning from bad feta can become serious for those with compromised immune systems. Let’s look at the typical symptoms next.

Symptoms of Food Poisoning from Bad Feta

If you eat feta cheese that contains Listeria, Salmonella or E. coli bacteria, symptoms can start anywhere from a few hours to several days later. Here are some common signs that eating bad feta has made you sick:

  • Nausea and vomiting: Your body tries to rid itself of the contaminant making you ill.
  • Diarrhea: Frequent, watery stools can lead to dehydration.
  • Fever and body aches: Your immune system reacts to fight the infection.
  • Stomach cramps and pain: Your gastrointestinal tract spasms to get rid of the bacteria.
  • Headaches: Dehydration and illness can trigger bad headaches.

For healthy adults, food poisoning caused by eating bad feta cheese may resolve in a day or two with rest and hydration. But symptoms can become severe and require hospitalization, especially in infants, the elderly and those with autoimmune disorders. In rare cases, complications from foodborne illness can even lead to death.

Don’t mess around with food poisoning – make sure any feta you eat is fresh! Now let’s go over how to prevent getting sick from bad feta in the first place.

How to Prevent Eating Bad Feta Cheese

To avoid the dangers from spoiled feta cheese, here are some tips to follow:

  • Store feta properly: Keep feta tightly wrapped in its original container or wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Store it towards the back of the refrigerator, not in the door. Discard when passed the expiration or sell-by date.
  • Check for signs of spoilage: Examine feta closely and sniff before eating. Look for mold, odor, changes in color or texture. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Avoid unpasteurized feta: Feta made from raw milk has a higher risk of bacterial contamination. Purchase pasteurized feta for the best safety.
  • Cook thoroughly if concerned: Heating feta cheese to 160°F kills any harmful bacteria present. Add feta to cooked foods like pizza, casseroles or omelets rather than eating it raw.

With proper handling and storage, feta cheese is perfectly safe to eat. Just be diligent checking your feta for freshness and stick to pasteurized varieties whenever possible.

What To Do If You Eat Bad Feta

We’ve all tasted something and realized: uh oh, that was bad! If you suspect you’ve eaten feta cheese that was spoiled, here’s what to do next:

  • Seek medical care for severe symptoms: If you develop a high fever, bloody stools, prolonged vomiting or severe diarrhea after eating bad feta, seek prompt medical attention. These are signs of a serious bacterial infection.
  • Drink fluids and get rest: To recover from mild food poisoning, sip water and clear broth to prevent dehydration. Get extra rest while your body fights the illness.
  • Monitor your symptoms: Note any changes in the severity of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or cramps. Call your doctor if symptoms last more than 48 hours or seem to be getting significantly worse.
  • Call your doctor with concerns: Describe your symptoms and when they started in relation to eating possibly spoiled feta cheese. Your doctor can provide supportive treatment recommendations and address any serious concerns.

Even mild cases of food poisoning are miserable experiences. So please, learn from my mistake and always inspect feta closely before eating it. With proper handling and storage, feta should be perfectly safe. But bad feta can certainly ruin an otherwise delicious Greek salad. Stay vigilant and stay healthy cheese lovers!

Conclusion

Eating feta cheese that has gone bad can expose you to harmful bacteria that cause food poisoning, leading to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and other unpleasant GI symptoms. To avoid getting sick, look for signs of spoilage like mold, soft texture and foul odors before eating feta. Store feta properly in the fridge and discard when expired. Seek medical care if you develop concerning symptoms after eating feta that tasted or smelled strange. With proper precautions, we can all safely enjoy the unique taste of fresh, tangy feta cheese.

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