When Does Corn Go Bad?

Corn, like other vegetables, is delicious, packed with vitamins and minerals, and a fantastic addition to most dinner plates. 

But there’s always that pesky question about corn- How to know when it’s gone bad. 

We all hate food poisoning. Our stomachs especially get grumpy when we fill it with rotten food. 

The signs of rotten corn are clear and unmistakable. Fresh corn only lasts a week. Canned and frozen corn will get you a year before it rots. 

Even if you don’t trust your eyes, you can trust your nose and hands to tell you if corn is bad. 

Whether the corn is inside the husk or out, the signs are noticeable. Kernels and husks have their own way of telling us when the corn has started to rot. 

What Does Bad Corn Look Like? Everything You Need to Know

Brown Kernels

Brown kernels are easy to spot. The corn is old and isn’t healthy to eat. 

If the majority of the kernels on the cob have turned to an ugly brown then you need to toss it. However, if there are only a few brown kernels, it’s still healthy and safe to eat. You can easily cut off the brown kernels and eat the rest. 

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The husks are another quick indication of rotten corn. If it’s turned brown then don’t buy it or eat it. Your corn husks and silk lining should either breen green or a yellow-white color. 

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Shriveled or flaking husks are unmistakable. When purchasing corn still wrapped in its protective husk, it should wrap all the way around it and be extra snug. 

Husking corn requires grit and clenched teeth. Husks should never fall off freely or crumble to pieces.  

Black Spots

If you see black spots, you’ll want to chuck it. These spots are indicators of mold. 

It will take several days before corn on the cob starts to exhibit signs of mold and it may have already started rotting. Your best bet here is to make sure it still smells like corn and has that firm feeling to it. 

Sniffer Test

A moldy smell is a clean indication of rotten food. Fresh corn has a very distinct smell. If you can’t smell anything, and your sniffer isn’t broken, don’t trust the corn. 

Squishy or Slimy

As with most other fruits and veggies you want there to be a certain amount of firmness to it when you squeeze it. Corn is no exception. If the corn is squishy when you squeeze it, with or without a husk, it’s gone bad. Don’t trust it. 

If there is a slimy sheen to the corn, don’t eat it. Corn should be dry without any sort of wetness.   

White Kernels

Pile of corn kernels isolated over the white background

White kernels are good! If these white kernels mixed in with the yellow kernels seem off-putting to you, don’t fret, it’s normal. 

White kernels are perfectly healthy and are a natural part of the growth of corn. 

Don’t confuse white kernels with the fuzzy spots of white mold. White kernels affect the whole kernel. White mold will be fuzzy and grown over the corn. Most often white mold is paired with brown moldy spots. 

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How Long Does It Take for Corn to Go Bad?

Fresh corn starts to age the moment it’s torn from the stalk. As with all fresh veggies you’ll want to consume them early. In fact, consuming them within 24 hours after harvesting is the best way to assure you’re getting the most flavor. 

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If you leave the corn on the cob, it will decay and become inedible in a matter of days. After five days of sitting at room-temperature you’ll want to check it and give it the sniffer test before cooking it. Chances are at that point, it’s gone bad. 

You can extend the shelf life by putting it in the fridge if you’re not going to eat it quickly. However, this will only buy you a few extra days. Even if you wrap it up in plastic or tinfoil, you will need to check the corn after a week in the fridge, it will probably have gone rotten. 

How Does Corn Go Bad?

The natural sugar in the corn will break down and transform into starch. Starch will greatly decrease the freshness of the food and in days you’ll start to see mold. 

We want the enzymes, vitamins and minerals associated with corn. All of that goodness begins to go away once it starts to rot. 

Leaving corn unhusked and at room-temperature increases the rate at which the sugars will break down and turn into mold. 

How to Store Corn Properly to Prevent It From Going Bad

Corn can be bought fresh, canned or frozen. 

If you buy fresh corn on the cob and don’t plan on eating that same day or the next day, then place it in tin foil and put it in the fridge. 

A plastic wrap or baggie will also suffice. Be sure to suppress all the extra air out of the bag before sealing it tight. 

At that point the rotten clock has begun and you have 5-7 days to cook the corn and eat it. 

Canned corn will last longer than fresh corn. Always follow the manufacturer’s shelf-life stamp on the can. Two years is the maximum time corn will be safe in canned form. 

Be wary of corn bought in a can with a shelf-life exceeding two years.

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And when you’re reheating corn, be sure you do it correctly. 

Frozen corn will get you a year. Whether you buy it frozen or freeze it yourself, you should safely get a full year’s worth of frozen storage out of it.      

What Happens If You Eat Bad Corn?       

Accidents happen. Or sometimes we just get lazy and forget to insert that double check on our food before we prepare it. 

If you suspect you’ve eaten something bad, don’t over worry yourself. Your stomach is built with strong enzymes to protect it from such incidents. 

As with eating any rotten food you may experience bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pains or other gastric symptoms. 

Eating rotten food is classified as food poisoning, however, in most cases you won’t need to consult a doctor unless the symptoms are severe and persistent. If it’s lasted for longer than two days consult a physician. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What color is mold on corn?

Brown or green. Usually brown with splotches of white growing off the brown. 

Can corn go bad in the fridge?

Yes. If you stored it correctly you’ll get a maximum of 7 days in the fridge before it gets rotten. 

What is the white stuff on my corn?

White kernels are good and healthy to eat. White husks and silks are strong indicators of a healthy cob. 

White fuzzy spots on your yellow corn is mold. It’s rotten. Throw it out. 


Corn is a favorite edition to the dinner plate, or even by itself on the cob. When dealing with fresh corn it’s imperative to know that it breaks down quickly and can become rotten sooner than other fresh vegetables. 

The signs are easy to spot- and smell. Don’t ignore them, food poisoning is never fun. 

If you need corn for long-term storage go for canned or frozen.