Signs of Bad Deli Meat


Usually, if a food causes you to question whether it's spoiled or not you should immediately throw it out. Deli meats are no exception to this rule; however, there are several easy indications that clearly imply the meat has gone rancid.

Why Food Spoils

  • Food spoils when it's left at room temperature and exposed to air . The oxygen breaks down fat tissues making it easier for bacterial cultivation. Moreover, some bacteria require oxygen to grow and since it's nearly impossible to keep food away from oxygen forever, it will always spoil. Additionally, all food, especially deli meats, contain oxidizing enzymes that speed up decomposition naturally. Keeping food in a sealed bag in the refrigerator slows down bacterial growth, but each time the bag is opened and brought to room temperature, it begins to slowly break down. Warm temperatures and exposure to high concentrations of sunlight further speed decomposition, especially since these conditions are favorable for bacteria.


  • A clear sign deli meat is going bad is if it's giving off an unpleasant odor, such as the smell of ammonia or sulfur. If these smells are present, the meat will likely taste chalky. This happens as a result of bacterial growth and naturally present enzymes that break down the deli meat's protein, fats and carbohydrates over time.


  • A major sign deli meat has gone bad is if it feels slimy. When slime formulates, the color also changes to a gray, brown or green. If tasted at this stage, your taste buds will notice and your mouth may smack of rancid meat for hours. Slime and color change occurs because of bacterial and yeast spoilage. However, if the meat develops fuzzy whiskers or is sticky to touch, mold is the culprit. Furthermore, mold growths and colonies appear on the surface of meat as creamy, black or dark green formations.

Expiration Date

  • Deli meats are not expected to last, usually expiring four or five days after they have been opened. Pay attention to the expiration date on your deli meat label. Discard the meat once the date has passed. In addition, if the meat is not properly stored or wrapped, the meat fats quickly begin to oxidize, giving it a rancid smell and taste. Throw out any rancid deli meat.

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