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What Are the Dangers of Eating Old Cereal?

author image Kay Ireland
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.
What Are the Dangers of Eating Old Cereal?
Think twice before you dig in. Photo Credit: Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images

When you're hungry or low on cash, a trip to your storage room may yield a box of expired cereal. Before you crack open the box and dig in, ensure that you're willing to eat old cereal. While safety-wise it should be fine, it may not have the best taste or texture and also could have lost some nutritional value. Carefully rotating your food storage can help prevent your cereal from going past its expiration date before you have a chance to dig in.

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Food Safety and Expiration Dates

The purpose of expiration dates is to alert consumers when a food should be consumed by. After the expiration date, the manufacturing company makes no claims about the nutrition values, taste, texture and quality of a product. Certain types of food survive well after the expiration date. Dairy products and fresh foods are usually the first to go sour, while unprocessed pantry foods like cereals, rice, nuts and beans can be stored and used well past the manufacturer's expiration date, notes Swedish Medical Center.

Taste and Texture

The first thing you may notice when you open a box of old cereal is that it may not have the same taste and texture as usual. While old cereal is technically safe to eat, you take a risk in eating cereal that may taste strange or is softer or more limp than before the expiration date. To minimize changes in flavor and texture, store your ready-to-eat cereals in a cool, dry space. The University of Georgia estimates that sealed cereal can stay on your shelf from six to 12 months without going bad.

Nutritional Values

If you leave cereal on the shelf and it begins to deteriorate, you could experience a deterioration in the quality of the cereal as well as the taste. Certain nutritionally fortified cereals can lose some of their nutritional value after long months of sitting on the shelf. If you're relying on old cereal to help provide some of your daily requirements for vitamins and minerals, you may want to look elsewhere to supplement your choice.

Insect Infestation

Cereal, rice, beans and other dry goods are magnets for certain insects like boll weevils that like to invade your pantry, warns the Clemson University Cooperative Extension. If you leave a box of cereal on the shelf for a long period of time before trying to eat it, you may be greeted by a host of pests. Avoid insect infestation by inspecting boxes for signs of damage periodically and before you pour the cereal into a bowl. Keep your pantry clean and dry, with all packaging well-sealed.

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