Can You Eat Expired Candy?

Preparing for your first vacation in a year, you retrieve your carry-on bag from the closet and discover a chocolate bar and a small bag of peppermints at the bottom. Uncertain about their safety, you wonder if it’s okay to consume them since there is no visible expiration date.

Consuming expired candy is generally safe, but its flavor and consistency may not be as pleasant as before. While many types of candy do not come with expiration dates, they might have sell-by or best-by dates that indicate their peak freshness. However, most candies can remain fresh for several months beyond these dates.

There is no universal rule for how long different types of sweets, including chocolate, hard candy, marshmallows, gummies, and soft jellies, will remain fresh and delicious.

Manufacturers of candy often indicate sell-by or best-by dates on their products to notify retailers when they should remove them from the shelves if unsold and to inform consumers about the product’s peak freshness.

On occasion, expiration dates may not be presented in the standard “day, month, year” format and instead appear as a combination of letters and numbers that require knowledge of the code to decipher.

Rest assured, consuming candy past its sell-by date printed on the package will not cause harm to your health.

Expired candy might not appear or have the same flavor. The candy may undergo alterations in color, texture, and hardness due to temperature and humidity changes over time.

It is likely that if the candy has exceeded its expiration date, it will have an unappealing appearance and odor, making it undesirable to consume.

How Long Can You Keep Candy?

The freshness duration of candy is ingredient-dependent, with hard candies having a longer shelf life than soft ones; nevertheless, it is possible to store candy for an extended period before eating.

Some candy manufacturers may suggest a limit to the freshness of their products, which can be found on the packaging or their website. However, it is common for the candy to remain tasty for several months beyond that date.

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Below are some recommendations on the duration for which unopened candy can maintain its optimal quality if stored correctly.

Kind of Candy Peak Quality
Milk chocolate 10 months–1 year
Dark chocolate Up to 2 years
White chocolate 10 months–1 year
Chocolate with fruits or nuts 8–10 months
Chocolate with caramel 6–8 months
Chocolate creams or truffles 3–4 months
Hard candy and lollipops 1 year
Marshmallows 6–8 months
Jelly beans 1 year
Jelly candies (like Chuckles) 1 year
Gummy bears, worms, etc. 12–18 months
Candy corn 9 months
Saltwater taffy 4–6 months
Chewy candy (Skittles, Starburst, etc.) 1 year
Gum 6–9 months
Caramel 6–9 months
Peanut butter cups 6–9 months

How Can You Tell if Old Candy Will Still Taste Good?

It can be difficult to determine if expired candy is still edible, especially since many candies do not have sell-by or use-by dates and it may be hard to remember when you bought them.

To determine if expired candy is still palatable, it’s advisable to visually inspect and sniff it. When candy ages or encounters high temperatures or moisture, its sugar or fat content may deteriorate, resulting in crystallization or alteration. These changes can be identified through observation.

The appearance of expired candy may differ based on its type, as it could lose its original shape, color, or texture. However, it is still safe to consume even if it doesn’t look appealing.

Throw out the candy immediately if you observe any mold on either the candy or its packaging, as this is the only instance where consuming expired candy is not recommended.

Below are a few basic principles to follow when inspecting outdated candy.

Chocolate

Chocolate may not appear to be very appetizing when it is old, but it is still safe to consume. Sugar and fat bloom, a phenomenon that affects chocolate, can cause spots and discoloration on the surface of the candy. However, these are completely harmless and do not affect the edibility of the chocolate.

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Sugar bloom takes place when the sugar solidifies because of exposure to extreme temperatures or humidity, while fat bloom occurs when there are changes in temperature that cause the cocoa butter to separate.

Expired candy that contains nuts, fruit, or caramel may not be as fresh as plain chocolate because the fillings or add-ins tend to become stale or hard faster than the chocolate.

If your candy appears dry and crumbly, it has likely been exposed to extreme temperatures. It is still safe to consume, though it may not be as enjoyable. You can restore it by melting it in the microwave.

Hard Candy

There is a vast variety of hard candies, such as peppermints, butterscotch, lemon drops, root beer barrels, Jolly Ranchers, Lifesavers, and old-fashioned ribbon candy. These sweets are composed mainly of sugar, sugary syrups, and flavorings.

Even if hard candy becomes sticky on the outside due to exposure to heat and humidity, it is still safe to consume as long as you are okay with the stickiness.

Jellies and Gummies

If jelly beans, jelly candies, and gummies have expired, they can exhibit signs of spoilage such as cracking, discoloration, deformation, stickiness, and off-color due to exposure to high temperatures and humidity.

If your gummy bears have become hard, you can restore their softness by soaking them in warm water. This will rehydrate them.

If you observe sugar crystals on the exterior of gummies or jelly beans, it is likely that they have exceeded their optimal freshness, but consuming them is still safe.

How To Store Candy Long-Term

Candy can remain fresh for a longer period if it is stored correctly, and its original packaging helps to maintain its quality. But, in case you have opened the package, consumed some of the candy, and wish to store the remaining portion, what should be your approach?

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To keep candy fresh, it is recommended to store it in a cool and dry place using an airtight container or a securely closed zipper bag; refrigeration or freezing is also an option, but certain types may undergo alterations in texture or color as a result of moisture exposure.

To prevent expired candy, it is advisable not to keep it near a heat source like a stove, radiator, or heat register. If you reside in a hot and humid area without air conditioning, it is better to store your candy in the refrigerator instead of a pantry or cupboard.

On average, the freshness of candy can be prolonged for several months by refrigerating or freezing it.

Store your candy in zipper bags or airtight containers to prevent it from absorbing any smells or tastes from other items in the refrigerator. Take care not to combine soft and hard candies together.

Chocolate, whether it’s a basic bar or a fancy truffle, can be stored in the fridge or freezer and will maintain its appearance and flavor after being thawed or returning to room temperature.

In spite of this, The Hershey’s Company warns that chocolate stored in the refrigerator may form “sweat” (condensation) when it is brought to room temperature. This is not dangerous, but it could make the surface of the chocolate a bit tacky.

While frozen chocolate may be a preferred treat for some individuals, particularly during warmer months, the majority of people will opt to defrost the chocolate prior to consumption.

Jelly beans and other candy can be stored in the refrigerator without any issues, and they also come out fine after being frozen. To thaw them, simply put them on the counter and let them reach room temperature.

Gummy bears (worms, sharks, or any other shape) consist mainly of gelatin, fruit juices, and flavorings. Although it is possible to freeze them, doing so may result in a firmer texture.

When you chill marshmallows, they don’t become totally solid. They get only a bit harder than when they are fresh, but they are still squishable. Defrosted marshmallows taste the same as new ones.

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