How much Halloween candy do you buy to give out to trick or treaters or to have on hand for your Halloween party? Depending on your answer and your plans for October 31, there's a good chance you might end up with some leftover sweets once All Hallows Eve has come to an end. Sure, there are lots of ways to use up the candy other than simply eating it as is, but you may be left with more than you can possibly get through—even with our creative ideas—over the course of a few days or week. While bags of candy typically come with expiration dates and there are even visible signs that non-wrapped pieces are beginning to go bad, is it possible to consume them safely after that time? Ahead, we tapped a food safety expert to find out.
"Best Buy" Date
Dr. Abigail Snyder, an assistant professor in the food science department at Cornell University, explains that bags of candy are usually marked with a "best buy" date, but this doesn't actually mean the candy is spoiled if that date has passed. "That's really just a recommendation by the producer to the consumer about how quickly the product should be eaten for optimum quality," she says. "There is no safety implication for eating gummy bears or candy corn after that date has elapsed." In fact, any changes in flavor and texture of the pieces themselves usually aren't noticeable until well beyond the expiration date.
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When it comes to individually-wrapped pieces of Halloween candy, like hard candies, chocolates, or caramels, Dr. Snyder notes that each piece may not be date marked, but consumers can evaluate them to tell if they would like to eat them. She explains expiration dates may vary product-to-product based on the quality factors that individual candy manufacturers specify, but there is not a difference in terms of safety between these types of Halloween candy. "Consumers might start to notice changes in flavor or texture over time, such as staling or the white bloom that appears on old chocolate," she says. "These are not representative of food safety issues, just quality deterioration."
According to Dr. Snyder, candy is shelf-stable because it has low "water activity." This means that there is not enough water in the product to support growth of bacterial pathogens. As a result, Dr. Snyder notes that it's not riskier to consume the candy after the given expiration date than before the date, which means the candy is fine to eat after its expiration date. Her advice? Use your own discretion about eating it, especially it if it starts tasting stale or bland or the textures begin to change.