Did you know the candy has a shelf life all its own, just like chocolates and other desserts? Food scientists at Kansas State University offered lab-tested tips on how to tell when your favourite treats are past their prime, and how to store them.
“The shelf life depends on the type of candy, packaging and storage conditions,” said Karen Blakeslee, food safety researcher at Kansas State University in the United States. “Shelf life can vary anywhere from two weeks to a year.”
She and professor of food science, Fadi Aramouni, suggest that if a candy appears extremely sticky or has a grainy texture, then it has most likely expired due to temperature changes and the crystallisation of sugar. As a result, it may develop an off flavour, have a changed colour, or turn mouldy if it contains fruits or nuts.
Expired candy may carry microbes that can make you sick. Aramouni, who studies food safety and food allergies, said that there have even been cases of salmonella poisoning from the consumption of old chocolate. Currently, he tests gourmet treats from the high-end US grocery chain, Dean and Deluca, in incubators that speed up the aging process in chocolates and toffee, so the store can properly date its products.
The incubators work by storing the food at higher temperatures — storing candy in an incubator at 35 degrees Celsius for six weeks equals six months on the shelf at room temperature (25 degrees Celsius). During the process, Aramouni takes samples to test for microbes, moisture and other chemical measures.
So what do the experts say about storing the sweet stuff? A general rule of thumb is that the softer the candy, the shorter its shelf life. And keep your goodies stored in a cool, dry place, preferably at room temperature.
“Heat can cause candies to melt and get too sticky,” Blakeslee said. “Chocolate can get a powdery look to it — called bloom — because of temperature changes, but it is still fine to eat.”
Hard candies can last up to a year when stored properly, and jellied candies, caramels, and gum can last anywhere from six to nine months. Dark chocolate can be kept for one to two years if wrapped in foil, and stored in a cool, dark, and dry place. Milk and white chocolates last no more than eight to 10 months.“It is OK to throw away old candy,” advises Aramouni. “Don’t feel compelled to eat it. It’s mostly empty calories after all.