I bought a piece of salami from a supermarket a week ago (a large chunk of a full sausage from the delicatessen, not sliced stuff in a pack) and I was wondering how long past the 'use by' date it's safe to eat the stuff. I know that the idea behind salami is that it can be store for many months at room temperature, but food bought from a modern supermarket usually bears little resemblance to the traditional meat. It's now a week past it's 'use by' date, and when trying a tiny piece earlier to see if it tasted ok, it had a slight sour taste to it, and I dared no go any further. Does this sound like it's not safe to eat, or is it stil ok if I can handle the new flavour?

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    Like Aaronut said, there's a difference between bacteria spoiling and fats going rancid. Salami should be preserved enough that you don't have to worry much about bacteria, but fats will still go rancid at room temperature. Refrigeration will slow down both processes, though.
    – Bob
    Commented Nov 18, 2010 at 15:02

1 Answer 1


I can't speak specifically to the shelf life of salami, especially considering all of the factors that come into play (source, type, age, storage, etc.), but when dealing with meat in general, you should never eat it if it smells or tastes "off". Smell is really the most reliable means of determining whether or not meat is still good - far more reliable than the use-by date.

It's unusual for meat to smell or taste sour as a result of foodborne bacteria; sourness is more likely to be due to rancidity of the fats, which is of course equally dangerous, albeit in a different way. Oxidation is very likely if the meat was not properly wrapped and/or stored in an airtight container.

Of course, many people have trouble telling the difference between spoilage due to rancidity and spoilage due to bacteria, and so what you're perceiving as rancid (sour) may really be bacterial spoilage.

Either way, if it tastes off, it's spoiled; don't eat it.

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    Often with salami you get an off smell from the salami fat and finger marks smeared on the casing from previous slicings. The meat itself is usually very well preserved and should be OK. Just wash the casing in hot water, dry with a paper towel, and you should be back in business
    – TFD
    Commented Nov 18, 2010 at 7:34
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    Always good advice: if it tastes bad, don't eat it
    – Bob
    Commented Nov 18, 2010 at 15:00
  • What if the salami smells just fine? Is there a good rule-of-thumb for how long it can be safely kept before it should be tossed? It's confusing when food has a "sell by" date but no "use by" date. Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 15:41

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