We’ve all been there: you’re unpacking boxes of old Christmas decorations and you come across a box of candy canes. You’re not sure how long they’ve been there--they could be leftovers from last year, or they could date back to a much, much sweeter time (we’re talking about before you were allowed to get contacts and your idea of a wild Friday night was loitering around the local movie theatre after 10 p.m.).
The candy cane is just one of those foods that never seems to go bad. They’re essentially all sugar, which is sometimes used to preserve other food. But think about it: Candy canes aren’t exactly kept in the safest surroundings. All the time spent tucked away into overflowing boxes stored in dark, warm, dusty nooks--it doesn’t seem so innocuous when you really stop to think about it.
So exactly how long do candy canes stay, well, edible. Truth is, they don’t really taste that great to begin with?
There doesn’t seem to be a conclusive answer to that question. Some will say that the expiration date on the box should be taken seriously, others swear that the sugar content gives candy canes shelf immortality--like Twinkies. It’s highly unlikely that any candy cane will kill you (unless you accept it from a stranger in a van …) so the choice is really in your hands.
If your candy cane somehow gets separated from its box and you have no expiration date to guide you, here are some tips:
>> Make sure it doesn’t stick: When opened, hard candy should be easily separated from the wrapper. If it clings, it probably isn’t as fresh as it can be.
>> Bite it: Before you stir it into your cocoa, try sinking your teeth into the cane. If it’s weirdly soft and chewy, you might want to discard. This isn’t a Starburst, kids.
>>Wrap it for safety: Get your mind out of the gutter. And don't eat a candy cane if it's just been rolling around sans cellophane wrapper for any significant period of time. That's gross.
>> Just don’t do it: Sugar is really bad for you. Maybe you should just save your daily allowance for candy that tastes a bit better.
Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.