The short answer is yes, you can get food poisoning from tofu.
But the real question is it likely?
And is there a way to prevent it?
A Quick Summary of Food Poisoning
Food poisoning comes from eating either spoiled or contaminated food.
It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites.
The consequences, of course, are vomiting, nausea, and a host of other unpleasant things.
So we need to look at 2 things:
- Does tofu go bad (and how do you tell)?
- Can tofu be contaminated?
Does Tofu Go Bad?
Tofu is often fine to eat after the expiration date (which usually applies to an opened package).
But it does go bad.
You can tell if your tofu might be turning by examining it before cooking:
- Color – Moldy tofu is easy to spot (see picture above), it will be slightly blue or green.
- Smell – The easiest way to tell your tofu is bad is to smell it before cooking it. It’s usually obvious if it’s bad, it will smell “weird.”
- Touch – Bad tofu is often slimy on the outside.
- Taste – A good habit to get into when cooking with tofu is to eat a tiny piece of it “raw” before cooking. It’ll be obvious if it’s gone bad, and you can easily spit it out with minor or no consequence.
In rare cases, the bad tofu may also change color, but only in the worst cases of spoilage. The 3 methods above are the most reliable.
Considering tofu is fairly cheap, I wouldn’t take a risk of getting sick if you’re not quite sure if it’s gone bad or not.
Is Tofu Often Contaminated?
All “raw” tofu comes already pre-cooked a bit, that’s why it’s okay to sample it before frying or baking it.
The pre-cooking kills most of germs, viruses, and bacteria that could be on it, although it is possible to get a bad batch which is contaminated.
The risk is also elevated if you buy sprouted tofu.
Keep in mind that cooking tofu will also kill off most contaminants if they are present. The more you cook it, the less likely it is to make you sick.
Overall, it is possible to get food poisoning from tofu, but it’s not likely. There are a few cases reported here and there, but you’re much less likely to get sick from tofu than other foods like meat.
What Happens If You Eat Bad Tofu?
The most common issues caused by eating bad tofu are (1):
- Bloating and gas
- Stomach cramps
If the tofu is really far gone, you might experience nausea, vomiting, and even a fever.
So if you’re not sure about whether your tofu is bad or not, think about if the symptoms above are worth the $2-4 you paid for it. I’d recommend being on the safe side.