Experts Weigh In On Whether Or Not It’s Safe To Consume Cereal That Is Past Its Sell By Date

Health experts discuss how much attention we should give the "best by" dates marked on cereal boxes.

Girl Holds Up Box of Wheaties Cereal
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Health experts discuss how much attention we should give the "best by" dates marked on cereal boxes.

If many Americans were to go rummaging around in the back of their pantries, chances are they’d find at least a couple of food items that are past their expiration date. Most people realize that are some products that should be thrown out shortly if they are not used by their “best by” date, like milk for example. Items like this have a noticeable difference in smell and taste when they’ve gone bad and it is usually fairly evident that they are no longer safe to eat. But what about those food items that have passed their expiration date but still appear to be fine? Cereal typically comes with a “best by” date stamped on the box, but is it really unsafe to consume them after that date has passed? Health experts on the Today Show weighed in on how much attention we should give these dates when it comes to cereal.

When it comes to whether or not cereal can spoil, it really depends on the type and how heavy the cereal is in fat. If the cereal has nuts in it, for example, it is more prone to become rancid. Jennifer Kaplan, a food systems instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, weighed in on eating cereal after it’s past its prime. “You can tell if the nuts in your cereal have become rancid if they have a grassy or paint-like odor… or if they have a dark or oily appearance,” advised Kaplan.

“That said, if you eat cereal with rancid nuts or oils, you’re at very little risk. The most common side effect will be an unpleasant taste.”

Kaplan went on to say that in most cases cereal is still safe to eat days or even weeks after it’s passed its expiration. The purpose of this date on cereal boxes is to inform consumers about how long the taste and texture of the food will remain intact. This does not necessarily mean it is inedible after this point. If you’ve had the cereal for a while but have not yet opened the box, it is still likely going to be good for at least three months. Health experts advise that you throw out a cereal box if it’s been in your pantry for over a year.

If you’re hoping to get your money’s worth, it is best to keep cereal in a sealed container that will not be exposed to light or heat.