Is It Safe To Eat Expired Frozen Foods?

Many Americans have been making frozen food part of their diets since the 1920s when Clarence Birdseye perfected the quick-freezing process, giving rise to the modern-day frozen food industry. Frozen food became even more mainstream in the 1950s with the advent of the frozen dinner. Today, the frozen food industry is reportedly worth roughly a quarter-trillion dollars worldwide, according to The History Channel.

Frozen food sales have especially heated up recently. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to stay home and food businesses to temporarily close. As a result, Americans flocked to supermarkets where they made bigger hauls over fewer trips. As a result, frozen food became even more of a dinnertime staple. Forbes reports that sales of frozen food in the U.S. rose 21% to $65.1 billion between June 2020 and June 2021 and online frozen food sales soared by 75% in 2020.

If you stocked your freezer with frozen foods that have now expired, are these products still safe to eat? If they are safe to eat past their expiration date, how long do you have before you need to toss them?

Frozen food consumption tips

According to Real Simple, products that you buy in the frozen food section of the grocery store "are safe to eat indefinitely." The reason frozen foods have an expiration date is because their original flavors and textures begin to wane over time. "Food poisoning bacteria does not grow in the freezer, so no matter how long a food is frozen, it is safe to eat," the U.S. Department of Agriculture states on its blog. "Foods that have been in the freezer for months may be dry, or may not taste as good, but they will be safe to eat."

That said, Real Simple points out that you should pour out frozen food products that contain several portions, such as a bag of frozen peas, rather than touching the food directly with your hands to avoid contamination. While bacteria do not grow in a freezer, they can survive and contaminate the food you defrost prior to cooking. In the case of buying foods that you then freeze, you should definitely consume these by a certain time after freezing, depending on the item. For instance, if you freeze yogurt, it should be eaten within 2 months after freezing. Packaged cold cuts and hot dogs should be consumed within 2 months after freezing, and butter is good in the freezer for 6 months after freezing (via Real Simple).

For more information and guidelines regarding the longevity of frozen food items, as well as non-frozen foods you choose to store in the freezer, visit