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What happens if I eat bad garlic?

Garlic is a popular ingredient used in many savory dishes. However, garlic can go bad and consuming it may lead to foodborne illness. This article will examine what can happen if you accidentally eat garlic that has gone bad.

Signs that garlic has gone bad

Fresh garlic bulbs should be firm with dry, tight skin. Garlic that has gone bad may have the following characteristics:

  • Soft or mushy cloves
  • Brown or discolored cloves
  • Cloves with green sprouts
  • Strong, unpleasant odor
  • Mold or slimy texture

Garlic that is past its prime but not yet rotten may also have loose skin, sprout roots, or a slightly off smell. Trust your senses – if the garlic smells, looks or feels off, it’s best not to use it.

What happens if you eat bad garlic

Eating garlic that has gone bad puts you at risk for food poisoning. Consuming bad garlic can cause the following symptoms:

Symptom Onset Duration
Nausea 30 minutes – 6 hours after ingestion 24 – 48 hours
Vomiting 1 – 6 hours after ingestion 24 – 48 hours
Diarrhea 6 – 48 hours after ingestion 24 – 48 hours
Abdominal cramps 1 – 6 hours after ingestion 24 – 48 hours
Fever 3 – 6 hours after ingestion Up to 24 hours

Symptoms typically begin within 1-6 hours of eating spoiled garlic. Most cases resolve on their own within 1-3 days. See your doctor if symptoms are severe or persist longer than 2 days.

Causes of bad garlic

There are a few main reasons why garlic can go bad:

  • Age: Garlic will eventually spoil over time, usually within a few weeks to months of purchase.
  • Damage: Cracks, cuts or bruising to the garlic bulb allow microbes and fungi to contaminate it.
  • Temperature: Heat and humidity speed up garlic spoilage. Keep garlic dry and store it in a cool, dark place.
  • Contamination: Exposure to bacteria from contaminated foods, containers, countertops or cutting boards can cause garlic to spoil.

Types of bacteria in spoiled garlic

Several types of harmful bacteria can grow on garlic that has gone bad. These include:

Bacteria Source Associated Illness
Salmonella Animal or human feces Salmonellosis
Listeria monocytogenes Soil, water, animals Listeriosis
Escherichia coli Animal or human feces Diarrhea, vomiting, fever
Clostridium botulinum Soil, dust, water Botulism

These bacteria can come from contaminated irrigation water, exposure to rodents or other animals, unclean processing or packaging facilities, or contact with contaminated kitchen tools and surfaces.

Risk factors

You have an increased risk of developing food poisoning if you eat bad garlic in the following situations:

  • Having a weakened immune system from a medical condition or medication
  • Being an infant, child, pregnant woman, or elderly
  • Having a prior condition like diabetes, kidney disease, or cancer
  • Taking antacids regularly
  • Eating a large amount of spoiled garlic

People in higher risk groups should discard garlic at the first signs of spoilage. Food poisoning can progress to serious complications like dehydration, bacteremia, meningitis or reactive arthritis in vulnerable populations.

How to prevent eating bad garlic

You can take the following steps to avoid consuming garlic that has spoiled:

  • Check garlic bulbs carefully for signs of spoilage before purchase.
  • Store garlic in a cool, dry, dark place, away from moisture and sunlight.
  • Keep garlic separate from ready-to-eat foods that could be cross-contaminated.
  • Refrigerate peeled, chopped garlic.
  • Use fresh garlic within a few days of peeling or chopping.
  • Discard garlic that smells, looks or feels off.
  • When in doubt, throw it out!

Treatment for food poisoning from bad garlic

There is no specific treatment for simple food poisoning from garlic. Management involves:

  • Drinking fluids – Try oral rehydration solutions, broth, caffeine-free sports drinks.
  • Resting – Your body needs energy to fight the infection.
  • Eating bland foods – Stick to foods like crackers, rice, applesauce, toast.
  • Taking OTC medications – Consider Pepto-Bismol, Imodium for symptom relief.
  • Avoiding certain foods – Do not eat dairy, greasy, sweet or spicy foods until recovered.

See your doctor if you have bloody stool, uncontrolled vomiting, high fever, or symptoms lasting more than 2 days. You may need IV fluids or hospital care for severe dehydration. Antibiotics are not used unless there are complications.

Can you die from eating bad garlic?

Death from garlic poisoning is very rare. Most cases cause mild to moderate gastrointestinal symptoms that resolve on their own. However, certain high-risk individuals can develop life-threatening complications like:

  • Septicemia – bacteria in the bloodstream
  • Meningitis – infection of the spinal cord and brain membranes
  • Peritonitis – inflammation of the abdominal lining
  • Kidney failure
  • Reactive arthritis – painful, inflamed joints

Immunocompromised people are at greatest risk of severe illness. Seek immediate medical care if you experience persistent vomiting, bloody stool, high fever, stiff neck, seizures, rash, joint pain, or fainting after eating bad garlic.

Bottom line

Eating garlic that has spoiled can lead to foodborne illness caused by harmful bacteria. Symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps often resolve within 1-3 days. However, certain high-risk groups can develop dangerous complications and should seek prompt treatment for persistent symptoms.

You can avoid getting sick by inspecting garlic carefully before using, storing it properly, and discarding any bulbs that show signs of spoilage. Practicing good food safety habits in the kitchen will also help prevent consumption of bad garlic. When in doubt, remember it’s better to be safe than sorry – go ahead and throw it out!