Do Candies Expire? Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth Safely
Ever wondered whether candies expire? We all have our favourite types of candies that we like to stock. Maybe you’re the friend everyone gives their licorice jelly beans to, or maybe you’re the kind who prefers sour worms, or salt water taffy. Whatever category you fit into, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with a little candy history, and more importantly, the various shelf lives of your favourite candies to ensure you’re eating them at their best.
Let’s commence with a quick rundown of the various forms of candy. In this broad list, we include candy corn, marshmallows, chewing gum, chocolate bars, and even truffles. If you wonder whether chocolate fits into this category or not, the answer is not as clear-cut. But long story short, chocolate can generally be considered candy, just like any tiny treat that’s mostly sugar.
Candies Across Cultures
Also referred to as sweets or lollies, we learn that various cultures draw different distinctions between something snacked on between meals and something enjoyed as after-dinner desserts. Take for example Western cultures who deem the syrup-soaked pastry, baklava, as being a dessert that’s served on a plate and can be eaten with cutlery.
In the Middle East, North Africa, and even parts of Eastern Europe however, it’s considered a type of candy and only eaten with fingers. Kind of reminds us of the early ice cream sandwiches that, at one point, people ate with a knife and fork!
A plate of syrup-soaked Baklava
Candies as Medicine
Another aspect of candy we often overlook is its use as a medicine. What kind of candies might come to mind? Think lemon and honey-flavoured lozenges for sore throats. Prior to this, candy played a significant role in aiding digestion. Consider the medieval period, when access to fresh and balanced food was a significant challenge. What did they do? In an effort to combat indigestion, we saw the introduction of banquet candies, which were created from digestive aids such as ginger, aniseed, and cloves, all dipped in sugar syrup. A luxury only afforded to the rich.
Eventually, kids cottoned on to the sugary coatings on medicinal lozenges. When they began spending their own pocket money on it, this is when companies started marketing different types of candies toward children.
Back to the Question: Do Candies Expire?
The answer to that question is Yes, candies have a shelf life too. The typical packaging introduced by the industrial revolution holds in the taste and aroma and acts as a barrier to unwanted moisture and dirt. But it doesn’t mean that a product with such a long shelf-life such as candies will last forever, especially when the packaging is opened. The “best-before” dates on the packaging are generally concerned with preserving the best taste, texture, and form, but at the end of the day, everything can expire.
When it comes to candy expiration dates, the National Confectioners Association recommends the following lifespans:
Dark chocolate: 1-2 years
Hard candy: 1 year
Milk and white chocolate: 8-10 months
Soft candies: 6-9 months
Candy corn: 6-9 months
Chewing gum: 6-9 months
Caramel: 6-9 months
Why Do Candies Have Longer Shelf Lives?
Candies typically have longer shelf lives than other forms of food, due to a number of factors:
High Sugar Content: The main ingredient of all candies doesn’t just sweeten them, but also preserves them. Sugar is a natural preservative that does not go bad by itself and can extend the shelf life of these treats considerably.
Low Water Content: Water is essential for microbial growth. With water being scarce in most types of candies, it becomes difficult for bacteria, molds, and other microorganisms to multiply and spoil their host. This is why it is so important to protect candies from moisture.
Low pH levels:The acidic contents of some candies, like the citric acid in candies like Skittles and lemon drops, can also create an unfriendly environment for microorganisms and limit their growth.
Sealed Packaging: The sealed airtight packaging of most candies protects them against air and moisture, which helps extend their shelf life. This packaging, however, does not protect them against heat, light, or melting.
Additives:Some candies may contain chemical preservatives such as Butylated hydroxyanisole and the antioxidant TBHQ, that inhibit microbial growth and prevent spoilage.
While most candies have a long shelf life, their quality may deteriorate over time. Exposure to heat, light, and humidity can affect the texture, flavour, and appearance of candies, therefore, it’s highly advised to store them in a cool, dry place and consume them within their recommended shelf life for the best taste and quality.
Tips for Better Storage of Candies
Check the Expiration Dates:First of all, it’s essential to check the best-before or expiration date on the packaging and try to consume candies within that timeframe.
Re-Seal:If you’ve opened a sealed package of candies but don’t plan to eat them all at once, transferring them to airtight containers or resealable plastic bags can help protect them against exposure to moisture and air. Make sure to remove as much air as possible from the container or bag before sealing it.
- Separate Flavours and Types: Store different candy types or flavours separately or in distinct containers, away from strong-smelling foods or chemicals, as some candies can absorb the flavours of others if stored together, affecting their taste.
Store in a Cool, Dark, and Dry Place:Candies are sensitive to temperature and humidity. Keep them in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Generally, a temperature between 60°F and 70°F (15°C to 21°C) with low humidity would be ideal. Rapid temperature changes can also cause candies to expand and contract, potentially leading to moisture absorption.
Avoid Refrigeration or Freezing:Refrigerators can be too humid for candies and may distort their flavour due to exposure to other foods. Freezing candies can also change their texture and cause sugar crystallization, which may affect their taste and appearance.
Inspect for Mold or Spoilage:Periodically check your candies for any signs of mold, discolouration, or an off smell. If you notice any of these, discard the affected candies and inspect others in the same container.
Rotate Your Stock:If you have a large stash of candies, use a first-in, first-out approach to ensure that older candies are consumed prior to their best-before date.
If you’re anything like us, chances are that candies do not survive for a long time in your pantry. So, next time somebody asks you “do candies expire?” you better tell them to tuck into various types of candies sooner rather than later. You wouldn’t want candies to expire, would you?