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The truth about stale food and whether it can make you sick

Justina Huddleston is an editor and the head writer for TDmonthly Magazine. She has been a freelance writer for several years, though her real passion is cooking. You can see the recipes she creates on her vegan food blog, A Life of Litt...

You're hungry — can you eat those stale cookies?

There's nothing worse than opening a box of cereal or bag of cookies only to find that they've gone stale.

Here's looking at you, last year's Girl Scout Cookies.

But is there more to stale food than just the weird taste and texture? Or could eating stale food actually be dangerous?

We asked Amrie DeFrates, a registered dietitian and certified food handler, what the deal was.

More: Burnt toast and stale bread: Genius ways to repurpose them into delicious dishes

Why does food go stale?

First off, why does food go stale? It has to do with moisture — too much or too little both affect quality.

"Staleness of bread products is caused by loss of moisture. Or in humid environments, where crunchy products are stored, sometimes even the absorption of moisture will cause a product to go stale," DeFrates told SheKnows.

Is it dangerous to eat those stale cookies?

"It is safe to eat breads and crackers that have gone stale, though they may not taste as great," DeFrates says. "Always inspect breads for mold or any abnormal smell to determine when it is time to throw out a product."

More: 11 stale bread and burnt toast recipes you'll actually enjoy

Thank goodness! I've definitely had my fair share of stale cereal on rushed mornings when it was literally the only food in the house.

How do you prevent food from going stale?

Of course, the best way to avoid stale food is preventing it.

"If a product is kept sealed in the original packaging, it may last days to weeks beyond the best-by date. A package that is opened and left exposed to the air may not last more than two to three days past purchasing," DeFrates told us.

So that's that. If your food goes stale and you don't realize it until after you've had a bite, there's no need to worry — it tastes weird, but it won't harm you.

But for best results, keep your bread products in sealed, airtight containers, and you can avoid a lot of those stale-food disappointments.

More: 10 items you don't actually need to keep in the fridge

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