How Long Does Bread Last?
One of the Most Popular Foods Around the World is Bread
Bread is made from wheat or alternative grains, plus yeast and other ingredients. Typically bread stays fresh for only a short period before it starts to go bad. It may even grow mould and become unsafe to eat, so it’s helpful to know how to keep it fresh for as long as possible. This article explains how long bread typically lasts, how to tell whether it’s safe to eat, and how to increase its shelf life.
What is the Shelf Life of Bread?
Many factors influence bread’s shelf life, which is the length of time it lasts before starting to go bad. The shelf life of bread kept at room temperature ranges from 3–7 days but may vary depending on ingredients, type of bread, and storage method, the type of bread and ingredients used.
Without preservatives, bread lasts 3–4 days at room temperature. Notably, most homemade breads don’t contain preservatives and may use perishable ingredients like eggs and milk. Some bakeries likewise avoid preservatives — you can check the ingredient list or ask the baker if you’re unsure.
Loaf, sandwich or bakery breads available at the store often contain preservatives to prevent mould and increase their shelf life. Some common bread preservatives include calcium propionate, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, and sorbic acid. Lactic acid bacteria is an alternative that naturally produces anti-mould acids.
Gluten-free bread is more susceptible to mould. This is due to its higher moisture content and limited use of preservatives. This is why it’s often sold frozen instead of at room temperature. On the other hand, bread crumbs, crackers and other dried bread products usually stay safe the longest because mould needs moisture to grow.
Refrigerated dough for scones and rolls also eventually spoils because it contains oils that will turn rancid in time.
Your bread’s shelf life largely depends on its ingredients and the storage method. If your baker is using the Australian program Foodsafeplus, they will have an ingredients list, the list of allergens or preservatives, as well a the best before or expiry dates easily on hand.
The shelf life of bread also depends on the storage method. Bread is more likely to spoil if stored in warm, moist environments. To prevent mould, it should be kept sealed at room temperature or colder. Room-temperature bread typically lasts 3–4 days if it’s homemade or up to 7 days if it’s store-bought.
You can boost shelf life by refrigerating or freezing it. Refrigeration can increase the shelf life of both commercial and homemade bread by 3–5 days. If you choose to keep your bread in the fridge, make sure your bread is sealed well to prevent drying and that there’s no visible moisture in the packaging.
Frozen bread may last up to 6 months. Although freezing may not kill all dangerous compounds, it will slow their growth or prevent them from growing.
Has Your Bread Gone Bad? How Can You Tell?
Although many packaged foods have an expiration date, most breads have a best-by date instead, which denotes how long your bread will stay fresh. Did you know that the best-by date is not mandatory and don’t indicate safety. This means that bread may still be safe to eat even after its best-by date. To determine whether your bread is fresh or spoiled, you should examine it yourself.
A few indications that bread is no longer fresh include:
- Mould. Mould is a fungus that absorbs nutrients in bread and grows spores, producing fuzzy spots that may be green, black, white, or even pink. Health Authorities in Australia and other countries recommend discarding the whole loaf if you see mould.
- Unpleasant odour. If the bread has visible mould, it’s best not to smell it in case its spores are harmful to inhale. If you don’t see mould but notice a strange smell, it’s still best to throw out the loaf
- Strange taste. If the bread doesn’t taste right, it’s probably safest to throw it away.
- Hard texture. Bread that isn’t sealed and stored properly can become stale or dry. As long as there is no mould, stale bread can still be eaten — but it may not taste as good as fresh bread.
Bread most often has a best-by date instead of an expiration date, but it’s best to examine it yourself to determine whether it’s safe to eat. Throw away bread if it’s mouldy or has a strange taste or smell.
Risks of eating expired bread. Although some types of mould may be safe to consume, it’s impossible to tell which fungus is causing the mould on your bread. Therefore, it’s best not to eat mouldy bread, as it could harm your health. The most common bread moulds are Rhizopus, Penicillium, Aspergillus, Mucor, and Fusarium. Some moulds produce mycotoxins, which are poisons that can be dangerous to eat or inhale.
Mycotoxins may spread through an entire loaf, which is why you should throw out the whole loaf if you see mold. Mycotoxins can upset your stomach and cause digestive problems. They may also disrupt your gut bacteria, which could lead to a weakened immune system and higher risk of illness. What’s more, some mycotoxins, such as aflatoxin, may increase your risk of certain cancers if you eat a large amount. Mouldy bread may produce mycotoxins, which are invisible poisons that are unsafe to eat. It’s best to throw away the whole loaf if you see any mould.
Prevent Bread Waste
You may be wondering how to avoid discarding old bread, if you want to reduce food waste. Scraping off mould is not recommended, as it may have spread throughout the whole loaf.
Instead, here are some ideas to help prevent bread waste before your loaf gets moldy:
- Make homemade croutons, crackers, bread pudding, or breadcrumbs to use up bread before its best-by date.
- Properly seal and store any leftover bread in your freezer.
- If you see moisture inside your bread packaging, use a clean towel to dry it before resealing the bag. This will help prevent mould.
- Wait to cover or seal freshly baked bread until it’s completely cool. This will prevent moisture from accumulating and promoting mould.
- If you don’t want to freeze your bread, calculate how much you eat in a week and only purchase that amount. This way, you won’t have any to throw away.
- Pay attention to your bread storage method. You can also increase shelf life by freezing bread or keeping it dry and well-sealed.
Bread lasts just 3–7 days at room temperature, it has a very short shelf life. Proper sealing and storage, as well as using the refrigerator or freezer when needed, can help prevent mould and increase the shelf life of bread. If you see mould, you should throw away the whole loaf, as mould can produce harmful mycotoxins.
To prevent food waste, try creative ways to use up your old loaves, such as making bread pudding or homemade croutons — before the bread’s best-by date. Alternatively you can seal your bread and put in it the fridge or freezer.