How long does trick-or-treating candy last?

Whether it’s the spoils of a child’s trick-or-treat battle among friends to collect the most candy, or adults who are drawn in by the candy bags overflowing from store shelves, Halloween usually brings lots of sweet stuff into homes. While one may think it’s time to veg out, it’s important to know that most candies don’t need to be consumed quickly.

“I think the biggest risk when it comes to getting sick from Halloween candy is probably just from eating too much at one time,” said Alexis Hamilton, an assistant professor of food processing microbiology at the Department of Food Science and Technology at Virginia Tech.

To avoid that, Hamilton said how long candies last depends on what type it is.

“If you’ve got something like a milk chocolate, or maybe more like a white chocolate style candy, that again, unopened and in that cool dry place is going to last anywhere from eight to 10 months,” she said.

Dark chocolate stored under the same conditions in foil, could last more than a year, Hamilton said because the higher cocoa content means the candy will last longer.

For hard candies, they can last up to a year if stored at room temperature or in a cool and dry location. Unopened jellied candies can also last up to a year, but opened ones are only good for six to nine months.

Hamilton said that people who appreciate candy corn have about nine months to finish it off.

“If you’re someone who likes to maybe open the package and graze, maybe consider only three to six months on that one,” she said.

For gummies, as long as they are sealed, they can last six to nine months. To keep it fresh, Hamilton recommended keeping them out of the sun and in a cool and dry place.

Caramel candies should be kept covered, away from heat and at room temperature. Doing that can help them last anywhere from six months to a year.

Homemade treats are where you should start, according to Hamilton, since they have shorter shelf lives. For instance, fudge only lasts for a week, though storing it in the fridge will make it last a little longer. A good way to get the most out of these goodies is to store them in airtight containers.

“For items that are fully cooked to their crunchy and sticky best, these usually last at room temperature for anywhere from four to seven days,” Hamilton said. “Coated apples are a risk if partially eaten and not kept in the fridge. These can be safely enjoyed for up to four days after partially eating them.”

To know if candy is bad, Hamilton said to trust your senses.

“If it smells weird, or if you taste it, and it doesn’t taste quite like you remember or a little bit off feel free to pass on those,” she said. Also chuck it if it looks like anything fuzzy is growing on the candy.

Also, if the candy wrapper looks inflated, there’s a good chance you shouldn’t eat what’s inside.

“Not worth eating those because there might be a microorganism in there … growing,” Hamilton said.

Finally, Hamilton said, if you’re ever in doubt about a candy, just throw it out.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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