What Happens If You Eat Rancid Food

Rebekah P.
By Rebekah P. January 8, 2021 08:50

What Happens If You Eat Rancid Food

Growing and preserving your own food is smart and economical – until it starts to spoil on you.

When you have a large stockpile of food that has started to go bad, you might find yourself frustrated by all the waste. Do you really need to throw out all that spoiled food – and is it really spoiled?

Knowing which foods go bad and when, exactly, they do, is essential if you are a homesteader or prepper of any kind. It’s smart to keep tabs on the shelf life of your foods – and to have a clear idea of what might happen if you decide to eat rancid food.

Here are some tips so that you can be prepared for whatever life throws your way.


Rancidity is the oxidation of fat. Therefore, foods that contain more fat will go rancid more easily.

When oxygen that’s present in the air attacks molecules of fat, it creates a number of chemical reactions that lead to the formation of new (and admittedly stinky) molecules.

These reactions occur faster when light or heat are present, as well as in foods that contain polyunsaturated fats.

You’ll know that your food is rancid primarily by the smell.

It might smell a bit like wood varnish or wet cardboard. Rancid foods usually have the same appearance and texture as when they were first purchased, but the taste (and definitely the smell) will have changed.

What Foods Can Go Rancid?

While rancid is a term that’s often applied to a long list of foods, like meats, cheese, fruits, and other products, it technically can occur only when oils oxidize.

This means that rancidity can only occur in foods like whole flours, vegetable oils, brown rice, nuts, and seeds.

Related: How to Prevent Your Foods from Going Rancid

What Happens If You Eat Rancid Food?

There are several things that can happen if you eat rancid food.

Fortunately, you usually won’t get too sick and it won’t kill you. However, the molecules that form during the oxidation process can cause some digestive discomfort.

The good news is that eating a bit of rancid food here or there probably won’t make you sick. It’s the long term consequence you have to be worried about.

For starters, rancid foods will not be as nutritious as fresh ones. Oxidation destroys much of the vitamin content and good fats in the food. In fact, it’s suspected that regularly eating rancid foods can cause you to develop inflammatory or cardiovascular issues along with certain kinds of cancers.


There are several ways you can prevent food from going rancid so that you don’t have to worry about the potential side effects.

What Happens If You Eat Rancid Food For starters, if you’re buying food to stock your pantry, do so in reasonable quantities. Although it makes sense to keep a stockpile, don’t purchase more than you and your family will realistically consume over time. Purchase the food from a store where there’s fast product turnover, too, so that you’re more likely to start with a fresher product.

Check the packaging and best-by-dates, too. If you’re storing dry foods like cereals, flours, seeds, and nuts, repack them into sealable, airtight containers and avoid paper or plastic bags. Be sure to close these securely after each use. You may want to mark their expiry dates on the front, too.

Double-check your food before you eat it. For some foods, like oils, it will be easy to tell that they have gone rancid because you will notice the off-putting smell. For others, like nuts, the odor might not be as noticeable.

What Happens If You Eat Rancid Food This is why it’s so important to keep a list of which foods you purchased and when – as well as the shelf life of each product.

Organize your stockpile so that older foods are out in front and you know to use them first.

It’s also a good idea to reconsider your storage habits. Many people store things like nuts in the pantry, but you will actually have better results stashing nuts in the freezer or refrigerator. They’ll last much longer here and you won’t have to worry about them going rancid.

Of course, with things like oils, you should store them in a cool, dark place to prolong their shelf lives. Try not to reuse and reheat the same fat or oil multiple times, as this can also lead to rancidity over time.

What To Do With Your Rancid Food

There are some rancid foods that can still safely be eaten. In fact, in the case of some rancid foods, we’re actually so accustomed to them smelling naturally rancid that we don’t know that it’s rancidity that’s leading to the unique aroma of the food.

NutsFor example, we tend to be so used to the taste and smell of chopped nuts that are sold in grocery stores that you might not even notice that the aroma they give off is actually rancidity at its finest!

Most nuts are fresh for up to a year when refrigerated or four to five months when stored in the pantry.

You shouldn’t suffer from too many health effects if you choose to eat them but they won’t taste as fresh.

When it comes to rancid oil, you may want to skip cooking or baking with it. Rancid foods don’t usually develop mold, but they’ll lead to an awful-tasting finished product.

You can use the rancid oil for other purposes on the homestead, such as a lubricant and rust preventive, a lamp oil, or even a furniture polish and conditioner. Some people even use it in soap making!

Related: 8 Ways to Use Your Rancid Oil for Survival

Although some other foods can be eaten once they’ve started to go bad (anybody who’s ever cut a piece of mold off a brick of cheese and continued to eat the remainder will know this!) you should resist the temptation when it comes to rancid foods.

While nibbling a rancid almond here or there likely won’t cause you any ill effects, long term consumption can lead to some serious health problems.

Instead, keep your foods fresh by following the tips above – and you’ll be able to build a stronger, more reliable stockpile of food for the future.

You may also like:

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How to Properly Harvest Seeds and Get a Sustainable Food Source Year Round

Rebekah P.
By Rebekah P. January 8, 2021 08:50
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  1. Stu January 8, 14:28

    To answer your question you get sick.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck January 8, 15:44

      Not necessarily, Stu. It may give you indigestion. The author is incorrect, however. When eating rancid peanuts. I have first hand knowledge that the minute one bites into rancid peanuts one is immediately aware that something is seriously wrong with the nuts. They don’t give off an alarming order but they most assuredly give off an alarming taste.

      If really starving, I suppose you could choke them down but I kind of think if you were that starved you would probably chuck them right back up. Don’t know about that and hope to avoid having first hand knowledge about that aspect of eating rancid peanuts.

      Fortunately, have no other first hand info to offer on eating rancid foods. Have cut mold off bread and cheese and eaten it. Am careful to be generous in the portion I slice away to avoid latent spores that may not yet be visible to the naked eye. Have done that since I watch my mother do it almost a century ago. Still alive and kicking, albeit not as vigorously as in decades past.

      Reply to this comment
  2. the Stump January 8, 15:40

    During the age of Covid-19, how will you check for smell and taste when that is one of the first things to go. My Labrador is always testing me on my ability to smell anyway.

    Reply to this comment
  3. red ant January 8, 16:48

    Dam Good topic:
    Well, how fresh is the food that we eat. You do need to ck dates befor you buy and use because some store like communist Wal-Mart don’t rolltate there food. O they say they do but I no they don’t, watched it happen all the time. Saw some jars of food that were a year past the date. They just put crap on the shelf and go to the next one. They don’t care if its no good. They say so what if you don’t like it. F, you. More or less. Most of the time we won’t take it back any way. So money money for them and rancid food for you. O well see you tomorrow have a rancid day. Lol. Go look at a restraunts kitchen or the freezer. You would not eat out any more. People don’t care just give me your money. They are nasty and they pass it on to you as fresh. Might be, but how clean is the cook. Not… So if you think that eating rancid food will kill you or make you sick. We eat it ever day.
    Say just look at a burger open it up and you might be surprised by how rancid it really is. But Mum mum good. Lol. The coke and fries also. There is so much transition of bacteria passed around, it would blow your mind. The cook just scratched him self and then the person that bring your food just cleans the table next to you and then brought you your food. No hand washing or cleaning of the table. Wipe it down with a nasty rag. And we are scared of a virus, I am more scared of the cook and kitchen then a virus. Food posioning will kill you faster. Do we honestly think that all food is fresh. Hell no. Most food set in a ware house and gose rancid befor they send it out to the store for you to spend you hard earned money on. I’m a nut about dates on food. Ck everything befor you buy it. Tell the manager. But they don’t care eathier just give me my money that I did not earn.
    Rancid food ya eat it every day and have not died yet but my wife all most died because of food poisoning. So be careful when eating rancid food. My mom always said it was just stale food another name for rancid.
    Not saying you should eat rancid food but in all reality we eat it every day. All of us and nasty people bring it to you. Saw a women scratching a sore on her arm and then make some ones food. Nasty nasty. At taco bell. Funny they say money is nasty and we need a cashless way. Lies. How can any thing be nasty. Only if we touch it. well if we open our eyes you will be able to see the nasty way we live here on earth. That’s all of us.
    So ya we eat rancid food all the time. But remember some can kill you.
    Good luck rancid eater LMAO.

    Reply to this comment
    • Beck January 8, 17:46

      With more and more people eating at home and less having the money to eat out, and a dearth of eating places anyway, due to the opandemic9 or whatever socialist program they want to call it) chances are that you will be forced to eat food past its expiration date whether you want to or not. The topic was whether it is safe, and the answer was not really, but in small quantities, which we may be forgiving of just because, possibly. Stomach discomfort, and possible diarrhea are byproducts of your system not liking the food you eat, and in severe cases you will probably throw up, and be sicker than you were before you started. We have no idea what the future is going to bring, but the focus of these articles is to help us get by a little easier if life as we know it goes bad. Thanks Chuck for your guidance.

      Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck January 8, 18:33

      Wally World’s problem is not that they don’t have a policy regarding rotation of goods, it is that they expect their managers and assistant managers to work 60 hour weeks every week not only managing but filling in when minimum wage employees don’t show up.

      You hire minimum wage employees mostly you get minimum employees. The employees know they are supposed to rotate stock. It was in the employee manual that they were handed but didn’t read because their reading skills were at such a low level that reading the tobacco warning on a cigarette pack exceeded their reading ability.

      Of course that come back to management decisions to hire unskilled, low-wage employees.

      You never get a Cadillac for the price of a Yugo. You may get a Yugo while paying for a Caddie, but it never works the other way. You pay minimum wage with half shifts and only 32 hours a week to avoid full time employee status and guess what you get. You get minimum employees. Not brain surgeons.

      Henry Ford was a tight with a dollar as the next millionaire but he knew he had to pay his employees a decent wage if they were going to be able to buy his automobiles. He shocked industry in the world by paying his employees — what was it, a dollar an hour for working the assembly line.?

      Unheard of. The world is going to crumble. There will be world wide floods, plagues of locusts, rivers will run in blood. Well, none of that happened.

      But, having the goobermint arbitrarily decide what unskilled, uneducated labor is worth in a world that is rapidly going to robotics in manufacturing is ridiculous.

      Any goobermint interjection into human affairs usually ends up a mess. Social security? You gotta be kidding. Medicare? Have you had any dealings with Medicare recently? They are the reason medicine costs so much.
      The war in Iraq and Afghanistan? Are we still there? How much nation building can one do with a bunch of tribes that can’t think past the wall of their village?

      Well, that the lesson on Ayn Rand for this morning. Avoid rancid peanuts.

      Reply to this comment
      • IvyMike January 9, 01:43

        Before Medicare if you had knee surgery you paid one set price including everything from your hospital bed, anesthesiologist and surgeon to physical therapy and post op visits. Then came Medicare and codes. Medicare said they would pay for anything with a code. A smart hospital admin started applying to Medicare for codes for each separate step in a surgery, then for each item used down to a box of tissues, Uncle Sam happy to pay each item doubling and tripling and quadrupling etc the final price, then the insurance companies jumping in. Every suture, every swab, even the sterile paper sleeve on the thermometer gets a code. Dr. gets 5 minutes with the patient, 20 with data entry. Not even Ayn Rand imagined how insane government gets.
        I have to learn the hard way, I’ve finally figured out to store food in a vacuum bag when it’s going in the freezer long term. Oxygen is the Prepper’s enemy, this good little web site has taught me a lot about it.

        Reply to this comment
        • left coast chuck January 9, 03:09

          Mike: Yes, when our two kids were born it was a flat fee and under $200 each. I could even afford to pay the doctor and the hospital on my, a little over $100 a week, take home pay.

          Of course, the difference between my $100 a week take-home and today’s minimum wage earners, is that I wasn’t spending $150 a week. We managed to save $10 a week out of the $100 a week. We didn’t have TV at all. We didn’t have a car. I rode the bus or rode my bike which I bought on sale at Monkey Wards outlet store where they sold returned merchandise from their catalog sales. Or we walked pushing a stroller or dragging a wire two-wheeled grocery cart.

          Reply to this comment
    • Miss Kitty January 9, 05:00

      Red Ant-
      You’re absolutely right about many stores not properly rotating stock. I’ve worked in retail
      for many years.
      The biggest reasons for not rotating the stock are laziness, bad training and bad staffing. Many times the stockers are given an impossible amount of product to put out in the time given for the job. If they don’t meet their quotas, it goes into their personnel file. Then the management uses it to deny raises or promotions and often uses it as an excuse to “fire for cause”, so they don’t have to pay unemployment.
      Besides overworking and understaffing, a lot of people simply don’t care about doing a good job.. they’re just doing the minimum amount of work to keep out of trouble.
      Thirdly, bad training can be blamed as well. New employees who have never worked with food aren’t likely to think about checking expiration dates and putting new food to the back of the display, pulling older product to the front.
      No matter the reason, if any store consistently has out of date food, you need to report it to the local board of health. Retailers selling food and medicines with expiration dates are required to pull outdated merchandise off the shelves in my state. If they don’t, or if it’s infested with bugs like wheat moths, they have so many days to correct the problem or get fined. Try reporting the issue to store management first, especially if you see signs of an infestation.
      In this day and age of instant reviews online, management is far more likely to be polite and actually act on issues, because of the potential loss of revenue from people reading a negative review on their website.
      Always check the back of the shelves for the newest merchandise, check pastas, etc. for bugs before you even put items in your cart. If you see bugs like wheat moths in one section, buy your food elsewhere if possible and bring an infested box to a manager so they can act on it.
      If you get something that’s gone bad in a reasonable length of time from when you purchased it, return it to the store. Save your receipt until you have had a chance to examine your purchases.
      I’ve had food poisoning and almost died sitting on the toilet like Elvis or Judy Garland…not anything I want to experience again, EVAH!

      Reply to this comment
  4. red ant January 8, 23:02

    Unheard of:

    Rivers run with blood
    Plagues of frogs, flies, loctus
    Death to the first born
    Yes all that did happen
    Except the earth crumbling but the earth will be destroyed after the 1000 yr rain with CHRIST. Then a new earth will be created by GOD.

    John 3 :16

    Hang on, theres more. every eye will see and every ear will hear and every touge will confess. There will be things like that coming soon to us on earth.

    Hope y’all are ready when the trumpet sounds.

    Reply to this comment
  5. red January 9, 00:57

    Rancid makes fine fertilizer. It’s already most of the way to breaking down into nitrogen, CO2, and methane.

    Grease goes in #10 cans in the fridge. Get too much, the freezer. Used once too often, over scratch grain and out for the birds, who are earning their keep seeking out bugs in the garden–when not trying to be pests in the garden 🙂

    That may change soon. the grain would be needed for flour and the grease for lighting and cooking.

    Meanwhile, we’re finally getting the gas stove (circa 1940s/50s) hooked up and getting rid of the electric wasteful stove. Gas is easier to make with a sealed outhouse than trying to crank up a hand-turned generator.

    Only thing right now I would change is, all gas appliances. But the wringer washer is getting fixed! Mind all of you, the nazis are taking names in the hopes of sending all of us ‘radicals’ to an abandoned mine pit somewhere. We do know how to have too much fun.

    Reply to this comment
    • IvyMike January 10, 00:21

      Yeah we’re all confused over who is a Nazi and what is a radical. They say it was a bunch of far right fascists invading the Capitol but a lot of their leadership appeared to be weak minded pot smoking hippies in funny costumes.
      Feeding rancid grease to the chickens, you’re always doing odd stuff I’ve only run across reading 1st hand accounts of the lives of 19th century homesteaders, pretty cool.

      Reply to this comment
      • red January 10, 06:44

        Mike: It’s how we were raised, back in the hills. Nope, I know what is nazi because I had a lot of fam in the SS. None wanted to be there but you joined or your family suffered. All were good brewers, too. But then, most women were. Beer was food so they’d never trust a man to do it. and, it’s heading for midnight. Donno what got me up. You have a good rest and enjoy. change is in the air. niio

        Reply to this comment
        • Stu January 10, 16:32

          Red, care to share your families experience is the ss? Think you might beable to share with us wisdom of what they said in parallel of what is happening in America right now.

          Reply to this comment
          • red January 11, 06:16

            Stu: I was a little kid and an asthmatic. I would be sitting with the adults in the kitchen sipping coffee and maybe smoking a peppermint cigarette (old healers were all very up on tobacco). The women all said the same, the dem party is America’s Nazi party.
            My stepmother was an officer and stationed in Berlin with her husband. she, my aunts, and later my mother-in-law all said watch what they do, not what they say. They will follow Hitler’s orders. You see it happening. You watched them for years. Hitler was an avowed animal rights creep. He upheld gay rights. The Jungen was named for the Vogel Jungen, a violent gay rights teenager organization founded by Ernst Rohm. Brownshirts were adult members of the Vogel Jungen. Hitler said, “I want to raise a generation of young people that will be void of a conscious, relentless, imperious, and cruel.” He also said, “We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions.”
            We’re seeing purges and a rising demand all conservatives be watched and spied on. Hitler and Stalin were friends who had a little spat over the price of crude oil. Friends who survived East Germany said the stassi was right out the the Gestapo. there is no difference between nazi and communist.
            The movie, the Hunger Games, was made to show what would happen if liberals took over.

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