Families with children often pack refrigerators with lunch meats to make sandwiches for school lunches. If you have several different packages of these products in your refrigerator, occasionally you may discover older lunch meat. It is not necessarily bad. The expiration date, look and smell of the meat will help you determine whether it still is safe to eat.

Check “use-by” dates on packaged products. If the packaging is unopened and a use-by date has not yet passed, the meat should still be safe to consume. If the use-by date has passed, discard the lunch meat.

Look at the meat. If it looks or feels slimy, toss it out. If it shows any signs of mold or growth, definitely discard it.

Sniff the meat. If it does not smell as fresh, cooked deli meat should, it most likely is not good to consume. Meat that gives off a pungent odor usually is too old to eat. If turkey, pastrami or ham emits the smell of vinegar, ammonia or yeast, it is spoiled. Throw it out.


  • Opened packages of lunch meat and should be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and consumed in three to five days.

  • To freeze, first wrap lunch meat in aluminum foil or freezer wrap. It will keep for up to two months.