What’s the REAL expiration date of chocolate bars?

When you buy a chocolate bar, you are inclined to check the expiration date written on the packaging to figure out how long the chocolate will be edible for (in case this is even an issue). Or in other cases, you will find a chocolate bar hidden somewhere in your house and look at the expiration date to see if it’s still safe to eat.

You might be surprised to know that, despite the expiration date, chocolate stays edible and safe to eat for longer than what’s indicated on the packaging.

Chocolate bars last longer than other foods because there is no water activity in them, which means that there is no environment for bacterial growth. Also the amount of cocoa butter in it has a stabilizing effect on the chocolate. This is why you will rarely find a proper Expiration Date on chocolate bars, but most likely a Best Before Date, to indicate that the chocolate will maintain its best aromatic and textural properties until that period of time.

However, chocolate makers, whether artisanal or industrial, are very cautious with best before dates. They’d rather indicate a shorter time-frame than a longer one.

Chocolate bars are best eaten as fresh as possible, but they can still be considered edible a few months after the best before date printed on the packaging. Depending on the type of chocolate, the integrity of the package and the kind of storage, there are some general indications to follow.

Dark chocolate is known for lasting longer than milk and white chocolate.The absence of dairy content makes it less perishable. If unopened and stored properly, dark chocolate lasts 2 years (from the day it was made). If opened, but still stored properly, the rule of thumb is one year.
As for milk and white chocolate bars, the time available is cut in half. One year if unopened and stored properly, and 6-8 months if opened and stored properly.

Some chocolate professionals also believe that chocolate becomes better as time goes by. Like wine, some new flavors may develop in the chocolate bar with aging.

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