Sometimes we have a little too much food in our pantries. It’s inevitable for many of us to experience the dreaded situation of food exceeding its best by date. Sometimes we’re just a little bit too busy to eat all of the food we have, but we also can’t bear the thought of throwing out otherwise perfectly edible food.
This leads to the frustrating quandary of whether certain foods are safe to eat after they’ve exceeded their best by date. We know that certain things like milk, meats, and cheeses shouldn’t be eaten after the best by date.
But where do foods such as cereals stand? Is there a certain amount of time you should eat cereals in? Do cereals even expire?
Got a box of cereal in your pantry that you’re not sure you can safely eat? Want to find out what to do with it? Don’t worry, your questions will soon be answered. Read on to find out whether you can safely eat that slightly-old cereal!
Does Cereal Expire?
Technically, yes. Cereal does expire. However, this is much the case for everything in existence. All things eventually fall apart and decay, though many things do them at different rates.
Cereal and milk will both expire, but milk will do it far more rapidly than cereal. Many experts believe that cereals will last for a long period after their best-by dates, especially if unopened.
Why Does Cereal Last So Long Past Its Best By Date?
This is due to the fact that cereals are commonly all packaged in a dried form. You add milk to your cereal to allow it to moisten up when you want to consume it. When in its packaging, cereal is dried out, which means there is very little moisture within each grain of cereal.
Bacteria require moisture to be able to develop and thrive, and it is bacteria that causes the spoiling process in foods.
This is why, if you want a food product to last months longer than it would otherwise, you freeze it, because the freezing cold temperatures are the wrong kind of environment for bacteria to thrive.
Wet foods, unlike dry foods such as cereal, are more likely to quickly develop bacteria, hence why dry foods are able to last so much longer without spoiling.
Why Does Bread Spoil So Quickly?
Of course, now that we’ve brought up the fact that dry foods develop bacteria at a slower rate, the question instead turns to why certain dry foods still spoil extremely quickly. One dry food that spoils very fast is bread.
However, what differentiates bread and cereal is, again, the amount of moisture.
Though you wouldn’t consider bread to be a ‘wet’ food, it still has a much higher water and oil content than dry cereal. This is how bread is able to retain such a spongy and soft texture. And it also explains why it is able to spoil so quickly.
Can You Safely Eat Cereal Past its Best By Date?
Yes. You can still safely eat cereal once it has exceeded its best by date, but its quality may be lessened. If you are eating cereal that hasn’t yet been opened, it would likely be perfectly fine for consumption and be close to fresh.
Once the bag has been opened, then it will likely be of lesser quality when consumed.
If you are eating cereal from an unopened bag, you could expect it to taste fresh for a few months after its best by date. If you are eating cereal that has been opened, then you could likely get away with eating it a week after its best by date.
After this point, you may notice that the taste and texture has changed for the worse. The cereal will likely be chewier and will have lost its crunch, and the flavors may have become muted, or been replaced with more bitter tastes.
Even though cereal takes a lot longer to spoil and begin to develop mold, it will still happen eventually.
This is because most cereals will still contain trace amounts of oil which are there to help preserve the individual grains for much longer. This mold will, eventually, develop bacteria and mold.
What Ingredients Cause Certain Foods To Spoil?
There aren’t too many ingredients that specifically cause certain foods to spoil. The spoiling process is generally caused by oxygen, temperature, and humidity. As we mentioned earlier, food spoiling bacteria need certain conditions in order to properly thrive.
This includes moisture, which certain foods have in larger supply than others. Any ingredients that are naturally moist, or help to keep certain food products moist will eventually develop bacteria if left unchecked.
What Happens if You Eat Food That is Past Its Best By Date?
If you were to eat food that was past its best by date, the most likely thing you could expect to happen is for the food to just not taste very nice, or to have an unusual and unpleasant texture.
A step up from there may be a slight upset stomach around 24 hours later which could cause puking or diarrhea.
If you were to eat a food product that had been spoiled for a long time, then you would expect to suffer much worse consequences, such as longer-term illnesses caused by mycotoxins and microbial wastes.
So there you have it. Cereal does expire, but it does it at a far slower rate than certain other foods. This is because cereal is usually dry, and thus has little of what spoiling bacteria require to thrive.
If you have some cereal that is past its best by date, it would likely still be very safe to eat, but its texture and taste may have changed, depending on whether the cereal was opened or unopened when it passed that date.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can You Prevent Food From Spoiling?
Make use of your kitchen storage! Place appropriate foods in your fridge, to keep the food from developing bacteria, thanks to the low temperatures. Other foods can be placed in your pantry.
Make sure to close your pantry doors whenever possible, to keep the foods stored inside sealed away from the open air, which will keep bacteria from reaching them.
Can You Eat Cereal 3 Months Out Of Date?
Yes. If your cereal has not yet been opened from the hermetically sealed bag, then you could justifiably eat that cereal up to eight months after the best by date has passed!
Does Rice Last Forever?
Although rice can last a long time in your kitchen pantry (up to 2 years for white rice), it will still eventually spoil. No, rice does not last forever.
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