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How to Know if an Apple is Gone Bad

Compared to tomatoes and bananas, apples are the third-most consumed fruit in the world because of their potential health benefits. Similar to other fruits and vegetables, an apple has a limited shelf life before it is gone bad.

Therefore, examine apples carefully in the store, and at home to avoid the need to discard them.

In fact, apples that have passed their expiration date can become unsafe to eat, so it’s critical to understand how to tell when they’re no longer fresh and possibly spoiled.

This article explores how long apples typically last, what factors influence their shelf life, and what you can do to keep apples fresh.

Examining Apples

The first thing to look for when purchasing apples is the expiration date. Do not buy apples that have passed their expiration date because fruits and vegetables have a specific time frame.

You may also inspect the apple for holes caused by mold or insects. If the apple has insect holes, the exposed flesh inside the apple has most likely molded and possibly spoiled.

Checking for dehydration is another factor that causes an apple to spoil. Apples that are hard as rocks and light are also considered poor quality.

Sometimes the hardness of an apple can be mistaken because some apple producers use edible aloe vera gel coatings to protect the fruit from bacteria and keep them fresh.

In this scenario, weigh the apple in your palm. If an apple is hard and still heavy, it is OK to eat.

An apple that is rotten will be soft and squishy. If the inside of an apple is too soft or if the skin is wrinkled and loose, the apple is rotten.

Some spots may be caused by bruising, in which case the apple is still edible. When you find a discolored area, cut away the skin in that area.

The apple can still be eaten if the flesh underneath is white and firm. If the flesh beneath the discolored skin has another discolored layer, the apple has been spoiled and is unsafe to eat.

How Long Do Apples Last?

When and how apples are harvested and stored have a large impact on how long they last. Some apple varieties store well, while others are best eaten fresh.

Apples should be stored at 30–32 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of 90–95%. Apples can be stored in these conditions for several weeks to months, depending on the type (1):

  • Lodi: 1-2 weeks
  • Wealthy: 3-10 weeks
  • Cortland: 3-4 months
  • McIntosh: 3-4 months
  • Golden Delicious: 3-5 months
  • Jonathan: 3-5 months
  • Red Delicious: 3-5 months
  • Chieftain: 3-6 months

Apple bins are frequently treated with a gas known as 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP), which blocks the effects of ethylene, a colorless gas responsible for the ripening process.

Every fruit has a certain level of ethylene production throughout its lifecycle. Thus, 1-MCP prevents apples in storage from ripening (2, 3, 4).

However, once the apples are removed from these conditions, ripening resumes.

How to Store Apples at Home?

Consumers are most concerned with how apples are stored at home, including the temperature at which they are kept and whether they have been washed or cut.

There are several things you can do in order to extend the shelf life of your apples at home.

The first thing to do before storing your apples at home is to sort them out by removing bruised, cut, or decayed ones.

This is because one damaged apple can affect the shelf life of all apples if stored together.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the larger apples go bad sooner than the smaller ones.

Therefore, eat large apples soon. Last but not least, store apples individually paper wrapped in the drawer of your fridge where the temperature remains consistent.

If you don’t have enough room in your fridge, store your apples in a cooler place, such as the basement, but this may reduce their shelf life because of the inconsistent temperature.

Risks of Eating Spoiled Apples

Like any other fresh food, apples are susceptible to mold growth.

Mold is a fungus that produces the enzyme pectinase, which breaks down the pectin that holds apple cells together.

When the cells break open, the fungi draw nutrients from the apple and grow. If left unchecked, they will spread all over the apples, making them appear moldy.

However, the fungus can cause allergic or respiratory reactions in some people (5).

One example is mycotoxins (a risk factor for food-borne diseases), which are produced by some microorganisms (6).

Patulin, a mycotoxin produced by the Penicillium expansum species, is found in apples. When consumed in large quantities, patulin can cause nausea, bleeding ulcers, and may even increase your risk of cancer.

Mycotoxins can also disrupt your gut bacteria, affecting your immune system and increasing your risk of developing other diseases (7, 8).


Apples have a shelf life that can range from a few weeks to a few months.

The temperature, form, and location in which apples are stored all have a significant impact on how long they keep their freshness.

The best way to keep apples fresh and ready to eat is to keep them in the refrigerator, unwashed and individually wrapped.

Naeem Durrani BSc
I am a retired pharmacist, nutritionist, and food system expert. My interests include medical research and the scientific evidence around effective wellness practices that empower people to transform their lives.


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