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Can Beef Jerky Make You Sick? What to Know

Did you know that about 130 million people in the U.S. ate meat snacks and beef jerky in 2021? And that number continues to grow!

Beef jerky is undeniably a delicious, flavorful snack. Whether you’re on the go, working from home or just craving something savory, beef jerky is a great choice for satisfying both your taste buds and your hunger. 

But can beef jerky make you sick? How much beef jerky can you eat without getting a bellyache?

If you’re a beef jerky lover like us, you’ve probably tested your limits at some point! If you find yourself asking health-related questions, we’ve got you covered. Learn more about beef jerky and its potential effects on your health in this article.

[Related: Is Beef Jerky Healthy?]

Can Beef Jerky Give You Diarrhea?

If you love noshing on beef jerky, you might sometimes wonder, “Does beef jerky cause diarrhea?” Well, just know you aren’t alone if your stomach doesn’t always agree with your beef jerky selection.

Frankly, yes — beef jerky can give you diarrhea. But then again, most foods can give you diarrhea. It all depends on the type of beef jerky you eat, how much of it you eat and what’s in it.

If beef jerky’s given you diarrhea, you may have eaten stale or spoiled jerky. Eating beef jerky (or any food, for that matter) past its expiration date is inadvisable. So to prevent getting diarrhea from beef jerky, check its expiration date. 

If it’s past the expiration date, toss that jerky in the garbage and grab a new bag. 

And if you make your own jerky, we recommend writing the date you made it on its packaging. That way, you’ll know how long it’s good to eat.

Additionally, eat only the recommended serving size (we know it’s a struggle). You can usually find the serving size on the back of the packaging in the nutritional facts section. For most beef jerky varieties, the recommended serving size is 1 ounce (28 grams).

Plus, eat only high-quality beef jerky. If a bag looks old, powdery or otherwise icky, follow your instincts and steer clear (better to be safe than sorry). 

[Related: Can Pregnant Women Eat Beef Jerky?]

Can You Get Food Poisoning From Beef Jerky?

If you eat contaminated beef jerky, you can get food poisoning.

You can eat harmless mold on beef jerky without getting sick, but we strongly recommend just throwing away any moldy jerky. Symptoms of mold allergies include throat swelling, breathing problems and anaphylactic shock. Unless you have a specific mold sensitivity, eating bread mold is probably no more harmful than eating beef jerky mold.

But still — opt for a new bag instead. Some molds can host mycotoxins, which will make you truly ill.

If you happen to contract food poisoning from bad beef jerky, then diarrhea, nausea and vomiting should last only a few (miserable) days. Symptoms usually clear fairly quickly. If your food poisoning symptoms are severe, see a doctor or go to the hospital. 

Again — it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Always make sure you eat fresh, sealed, unexpired beef jerky.

Can Beef Jerky Cause Constipation?

Eating too much beef jerky can indeed cause constipation.

Although pure beef jerky is high in protein, it’s low in fiber. And fiber promotes intestinal health by delaying digestion. So if you eat too much beef jerky, you can get constipated from the lack of fiber. 

This general rule applies to all red meats and red meat products (like beef jerky).

If you love snacking on jerky regularly, make sure you get fiber from other parts of your diet (think veggies, fruits, nuts and whole grains). You can take fiber supplements if needed. Plus, including high-fiber foods in your diet keeps your meals balanced and your guts healthy.

[Related: What Is the Best Meat to Make Beef Jerky?]

Is Beef Jerky Hard to Digest?

Yes, beef jerky can be difficult for the human body to digest. Compared to other types of protein, the protein in meat (particularly red meat) is more difficult for the intestinal tract to break down. This strain can result in bloating.

In large quantities, meats and other fatty foods slow how quickly your stomach empties (thus the bloating and discomfort). If meat takes a really long time to digest and pass through the intestines, toxins can build up in the body.

On average, your body needs 12 to 48 hours to completely digest most meats.

Although beef jerky makes you feel full, unlike eating steak, it generally won't leave you feeling bloated — if eaten in moderation. Jerky’s high protein content can keep you feeling full for hours. If you experience bloating, it’s likely because of jerky’s sodium content (sodium retains water).

Does Beef Jerky Cause Gout?

Beef jerky can cause gout flare-ups for some people. When you eat certain foods (especially organ meats), gout flare-ups can happen more frequently.

Uric acid is a by-product of your body's normal digestion of the molecule purine. Foods that contain purine and therefore raise uric acid levels include organ meats (such as liver), red meats, sardines, bacon, mussels, alcoholic beverages and sugary drinks.

[Related: Is Beef Jerky Keto-Friendly?]

Is Beef Jerky Bad for IBS?

No, beef jerky isn’t known to worsen irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The primary cause of IBS is the food itself, not how it’s prepared or cooked. If you have IBS, speak with your doctor about whether you should eat beef jerky. They’ll know best about your specific medical condition, background and IBS triggers.

Can Beef Jerky Kill You?

Well, practically anything can kill you (even water). That said, we advise not eating an entire bag of beef jerky. You could get really sick — or at least feel awful from being too full.

Is eating too much beef jerky bad for you? Yes. 

Overeating any food, including beef jerky, can hurt your overall health and cause you to gain weight. Like all foods, eat beef jerky in moderation. 

But for beef jerky to kill you, you'd have to eat so much of it that your body would stop functioning altogether. We doubt that’ll happen, no matter how much you love beef jerky. You’re much more likely to feel too full and stop snacking than to die.

Not to sound like a broken record, but if you eat fresh, unexpired beef jerky in moderation per the recommended serving size, you should be perfectly fine.

Can Beef Jerky Make You Sick?

All things considered, yes, beef jerky can make you sick. But as we’ve noted, a good number of factors influence whether that happens: 

  • Freshness/expiration date
  • Recommended serving size/amount eaten
  • Your personal health condition
  • Type of meat used
  • Preservatives and ingredients (sodium, sugar, etc.)
  • Preservation method (for example, fully cooked vs. undercooked)

Avoid jerky produced from chopped, molded or overprocessed beef. Read product labels before you buy any jerky brand, and choose products that meet your dietary requirements. For example, you may need low-sodium or low-sugar jerky if you have diabetes.

[Related: Is Beef Jerky Good for Diabetics?]

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