Do Sprinkles, Food Coloring, and Frosting Really Expire?

I cleaned out my closet over the weekend and that led to a lot of existential questions, mostly about the sprinkles. In addition to my usual stock that I had for numerous seasons of decorating holiday cookies, my sister gave me a set of pastel-colored eggs, green sugar, and other decorations that she no longer needs, in various stages of use. Then I answered enthusiastically: “Thank you!” But now I understand that it would be better to skeptically ask the question: “How old are they ?”

When I saw one batch of “holiday stars” dated 2012 (thank you sis), I wondered if the sprinkles and their cohorts of holiday pastries would expire – and if so, when? When it comes to staples in the pantry, I tend to treat expiration dates as guesswork—they’re called nonperishables for a reason. The Food and Drug Administration itself acknowledges that ” most date labels are not based on hard scientific evidence “, and they are usually provided by manufacturers “to inform consumers and retailers of the date by which they can expect food retain the desired quality and taste.

So it might not taste as good, but it’s far from something that will actually make you sick. Many dates say “Best by” rather than “Eat by this date or you will surely die.” Also, it’s mostly sugar, so how much can it really go bad? Let’s figure it out.

Is the sprinkle expired?

Simple answer: sort of, and when they do, they expire very slowly. They contain dyes and other additives, and in some cases even oil. According to Eat By Date , when handled and stored properly, “Sprinkles last 3-5 years longer than the best by date.” As long as you don’t contaminate them with foodborne pathogens and store them in airtight containers, you can continue to use them without any problems for several years past their expiration date.

How to know if they are expired

Just looking at your sprinkles can tell you a lot. Visually inspect them for discoloration, stains, mold, and lumps (signs of moisture). If you don’t see any of these indicators but are still unsure, do a smell test. Any sour or rancid smell leads to immediate throwing them in the trash. If you are still in doubt, nothing will replace their tasting. If they are still sweet, they pass.

What about food coloring?

Most food coloring is made up of water, glycerin (sugar alcohol), coloring, citric acid, and sodium benzoate (a preservative). (Gel food coloring also includes corn syrup and modified corn starch.) Because many of these ingredients do not have an expiration date, food coloring has a long shelf life and can be used for several years past the expiration date if tightly closed and stored at room temperature. temperature in a cool place. dry place away from sunlight.

If not stored properly, liquid and gel food coloring can harden or dry out over time. When this happens – and you can’t walk to the store – add a few drops of hot water and massage the tube to see if it loosens up. If it has hardened beyond repair or shows any signs of mold growth, discard it immediately. (Note: Zero-liquid powdered food coloring lasts the longest.)

Is there a difference with cookie icing?

The cookie icing is a little darker. Eat By Date lists the expiration date of the pressure tube frosting as ” indeterminate – the frosting will harden and won’t work .” Glaze manufacturer Wilton, along with Betty Crocker, often use cryptic codes on their packaging, such as “H014A”, where the letter indicates the month of manufacture (H = August) and the first digit is the last digit of the year of manufacture. (0=2020), the next two digits are the day of the month (14th) and the last letter refers to the factory where it was produced.

If you don’t feel like translating the characters when decorating the cookies, consider using them until they change color, thicken, or start to smell bad, which is likely to happen within 18-24 months.

What about other baked goods?

We previously wrote about how to determine if your baking soda and baking powder will adequately perform their leavening functions, and how long to store flour . From a food safety standpoint, artificial vanilla extract has an indefinite shelf life, but may lose its flavor and aroma after four years. And, according to Lifehacker senior food editor Claire Lower , as long as it’s stored in a cool, dry, ant-free place, “your sugar can hang forever.”

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