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Your Halloween candy’s afterlife: How long is too long to hang on to that stash?


The shelf life of your Halloween candy stash could last from six months to two years, depending on the type of candy it is, and how it’s stored.

The shelf life of that Halloween candy haul may surprise you.

Your candy stash could last from six months to two years, depending on the type of candy it is, and how it’s stored.

“Chocolate-based candies, particularly if they’re more of that milk chocolate/white chocolate base, those will last eight to 10 months” when stored in a cool, dry place, according to Alexis Hamilton, assistant professor of food safety at Virginia Tech.

She added if those commercially-made treats are made with dark chocolate, then they “can last up to a year, sometimes up to two years if it’s just full-dark chocolate.” You can thank the cocoa content in dark chocolate for its shelf-life extending properties.

Alexis Hamilton holding up candy and chocolate.
Virginia Tech assistant professor Alexis Hamilton on food safety: your candy lasts longer than you think — with proper storage.

When it comes to the treats that are homemade, said Hamilton, then you will want to exercise a bit more caution. Items like crispy rice treats or candied apples should be eaten soon after they’re prepared — don’t let them haunt your candy collection for very long. Homemade candies “typically have a shorter shelf life,” said Hamilton.

Over time, chocolate candies may take on a dusty appearance with a whitish color. It’s not unsafe, said Hamilton, but something called “temperature abuse” can lead to oxidation or make that discoloration show up on the candy. In the confectionary industry, that’s referred to as “blooming” and while it isn’t hazardous, it can be a bit unappetizing because the texture may change and become chalky.

Hard candies can last up to a year, and jellied candies with the consistency of gumdrops or jelly beans should last six to nine months — again, depending on how they’re stored.

Allergens are a real concern for many people, so Hamilton advised parents to check labels to make sure there’s no ingredient that could cause health issues. And if the ingredients are not included on homemade treats that were offered, she advises people with food allergies to skip those as well.

Hamilton said while most commercially-made candy can last a long time, there are things to look for from a food-safety standpoint.

“If you start to see that your candy wrapper is blowing up like a balloon, that may be indicative of spoilage or even maybe a foodborne pathogen that’s in there,” she said. If that’s the case, said Hamilton, “Just throw that candy right in the trash.”

Hamilton said a good rule of thumb for food safety is: “If it looks gross, if it smells gross? Maybe skip that.”

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.