How To Tell If Bologna Is Bad (Complete Guide)

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Made from either beef, pork, or a combination of both, bologna is a deli meat popular in the US for its use in sandwiches. It is smoky and tangy, and chances are that you have it stocked up in your kitchen for hassle-free meals!

Although bologna can last a long time if stored properly, it won’t last forever, and to avoid falling sick from consuming bad bologna, you need to be aware of the signs to look out for.

So, how to tell if bologna is bad? The best way to tell if bologna is bad is by examining the way the meat looks and smells. If it has a dull color, slimy texture, sour smell, or moldy growth, it must be discarded immediately.

Read on to find out how long bologna typically lasts, how to tell if it has gone bad, the best way to store it, and much more:

How Long Does Bologna Last?

Bologna is a meat product and must be stored properly to keep it from spoiling too quickly. The shelf life of bologna is similar to the shelf life of other deli meats and it lasts long enough for you to use the entire packet before it expires. 

It lasts anywhere between a couple of hours to up to 3 months depending on how and where it is stored:

In The Fridge

If kept in the fridge, bologna can last for up to 2 weeks without any noticeable differences if the packaging is intact and airtight.

If it is open and exposed to too much air, it may last for only 1 week and the bologna may start to harden and darken in color, especially around the edges.

It will be safe to eat, but the texture won’t be the best. You may not notice it much if you are using it for sandwich meat, but it is still something to keep in mind.

In The Freezer

Frozen bologna can last up to 3 months and is the best way to store it if you wish to keep it for longer than a week.

It is recommended that you freeze the bologna in individual portions so that you thaw only as much as is needed and avoid refreezing.

Make sure to label the container with the date on which each portion was frozen so that you know how long to use it.

On The Countertop

Bologna shouldn’t be left on the countertop at room temperature for too long as it can become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Bacteria tend to multiply at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F. The maximum time it can be left out at room temperature is 2 hours, after which it will be deemed unsafe to eat.

How To Tell If Bologna Is Bad?

The best way to tell if any food is bad is by referring to its “use-by” or “best-before” date. This is a good indicator of the freshness of the meat, whether it is in a vacuum-sealed pack or from a deli.

It is, however, possible for foods, including bologna, to go bad before these dates, which is why you need to know the signs to look out for that indicate it being spoiled:


Bologna that has either already gone bad or is in the process of going bad will have a dull, faded, and unappetizing appearance.

This will be mainly due to the color changes from a nice pink to a more orange-grey or whitish tint. With bologna, if it’s pink, it’s safe to eat. If it’s anything else, you may want to take a double take on it.

Spoiled bologna may also have mold growing on it which can be identified as the fuzzy green, brown, or white growth on the meat. If you spot even the slightest bit of mold on the bologna, discard it immediately to avoid cross-contamination.


Bologna is made with meat and will take on an unpleasant smell as soon as it goes bad. If you’ve ever smelled rotten meat, you would know what we’re talking about.

The smell of bologna that has just started to spoil will be faint, compared to a noticeable sour and very unpleasant smell of bologna that has fully turned.


Fresh bologna will be firm and dry to the touch, whereas spoiled bologna may leave a slimy residue on your finger when touched and feel sticky.

Any indication of dampness on the bologna is bad as it should remain slime-free and dry while being moist to eat.


Taste should be the last means to assess whether or not your bologna has gone bad. Before doing a taste test, it is recommended to look for changes in appearance, smell, and texture to avoid eating bad meat.

If all else seems fine, you can taste the bologna. If you sense even the slightest hint of sourness or sulfur in the meat, spit it out and discard the bologna immediately since consuming spoiled meat can cause digestive issues and food poisoning.

Tips To Store Bologna To Prevent It From Going Bad

Here are a few tips to follow to make sure your bologna keeps for a long time and doesn’t go bad before its time:

  • Keep an eye on the best-before date and don’t open the bologna until you are ready to use it.
  • Enjoy freshly sliced bologna within 24 to 48 hours, after which you should consider safe storage options such as the fridge or freezer.
  • For maximum storage time, store the bologna in an airtight container, preferably wrapped in plastic or aluminum foil.
  • Place a few extra wrappings around the bologna when freezing it.

Related Questions

Now that you know all about storing bologna and how to tell if it has gone bad, here are a few additional questions we thought you might have:

What is the difference between bologna and mortadella?

The main difference between bologna and mortadella is the way the two are produced. In bologna, the fat and meat are emulsified into a paste-like mixture whereas in mortadella, cubes of fat break up the meat. Mortadella has a rich, pork flavor and silky texture compared to bologna’s bland flavor.

Is the red casing on bologna safe to eat?

Yes, in most cases it is made from animal hides and is edible and safe to eat. However, if the casing is a bright red, chances are that it may be synthetic casing that is not safe to eat. To be sure, always check the packaging for any information about the casing. If it is synthetic, remove it before eating.

How to thaw bologna?

To thaw bologna, you can either keep it in the fridge for a few hours or place it in a cold water bath. You may also use a microwave on defrost mode.

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