Avoid Eating Stale Candy By Learning The Secret Candy Codes

Reader Leo writes in with some helpful information that will allow you to avoid stale candy:

I work at a small-volume store in the midwest, and the other day my supervisor asked us to check all of the candy in the checkout lanes to see if it had expired. M&M Mars and Hershey brand candy both had different, indecipherable codes on the back which tell the expiration date. After calling the 1-800 number and finding out what the codes meant, we discovered that most of our candy stock was expired by a year or more. We even found candy that went bad from 2004. I figured I should share the codes, so people won’t buy expired candy, because it’s out there.

For M&Ms and Mars candy, there’s usually a 10 digit code of numbers and letters, but you only need to worry about the first three. The first number is the last number in the year (8 means 2008, 7 means 2007, etc) and the next two numbers stand for the week of the year (so, a number like 804 would be the fourth week of 2008: February 2008)

For Hershey’s candy, there’s a 2 character code for the month and year. The year is like the other code, with the number being the last number in the year, the second character is a letter that represents the month. A = January, B = February, and so on. So a code like 9A would mean that the candy expires January of 2009.

Stale candy isn’t really “expired” in the sense that milk and other perishable goods “expire.” In this case, the candy is merely stale and isn’t as tasty as it should be. Still, why buy old candy?

Here’s more info from Hershey.
(Photo:Zengrrl)

Comments

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  1. gskelding says:

    I hate it when someone gives you a box of chocolates or something, and you crack it open only to find that it’s all covered in that white stuff – that tells you some of the fat has leeched out of the chocolate – and it’s not very nice!!!

  2. ewww, I hear ya, GSK.

  3. chicagojohn says:

    there’s a similar code for eggs.

    just looked at an egg carton.. 1 digit for the year, followed by a 2 digit code for the week (01-52).

  4. spryte says:

    Some candy really could “expire” though, if it has nuts or other ingredients which can certainly spoil. Even with the preservatives, I ain’t eating four year old candy.

    I wish every packaged food would print “best before” dates on the packaging. I’m neurotic about not eating expired food and I’ve called many an 800 number asking how to decipher their stupid manufacturing codes. If nutritional info is required, why not shelf life info? For many products that’s just as important.

  5. overbysara says:

    good info!

    but… why don’t they just print easy to read expirations like everyone else? why this code system? are we spies?

  6. spryte says:

    @chicagojohn: I remember my mom buying a brand of eggs that had their use by date stamped right on each individual egg, which seemed pretty smart to me – since a lot of people remove eggs from the carton if their fridge has an egg cup section.

  7. lettere says:

    I prefer all the fat to leech into me.@gskelding:

  8. pegr says:

    @gskelding:
    Chocolate “bloom” (the grey/white coating you sometimes see) is caused by improper storage, not age. While its not particularly appetizing, it really doesn’t affect the taste.

    I’m with you, though. I’d prefer to avoid it.

  9. Maurik says:

    @spryte:

    In the UK and Switzerland (havn’t lived/bought eggs elsewhere), every egg I’ve bought had a date stamp on it.

  10. bdsakx says:

    You can also figure out which candy is old based on the promotional marketing graphics. Like the other day I saw graphics promoting “Pirates of the Caribbean” on some chocolate bar and instantly knew that had to be seriously old. I saw some Snickers bars as well for Super Bowl XL… heh. This was at a dollar store by the way… so go figure.

  11. backbroken says:

    Does anyone really know if chocolate or other candy can go bad? Or is it just speculation? I don’t mean stale, I mean ‘bad enough to give you a tummy-ache.’

  12. ZekeSulastin says:

    I wonder how all of you would react to the idea of eating a pack of candy from an MRE, if the idea of eating slightly ‘expired’ M&Ms repulses you …

  13. ct_price says:

    Why buy American chocolate? It is terrible. Too much sugar and not enough chocolate mass to make it worth my money. I stock up when I go to Europe and anyone I know who goes there knows to bring me back like 5 bars. Even the store brands over there are superior to our best stuff.

  14. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    This is why it is good to avoid food from discount stores.

    This reminds me of the time I bought shampoo from Filene’s Basement that the manufacturer (Phyto) told me was ten years old.

  15. Jamie Beckland says:

    Off topic, but relevant:

    The advertising banner I have at the end of this post is for the lobbying arm of the cable industry; the tag line is “Cable Competes; Consumers Win.”

    Does anyone else find this ironic? The cable cos need to take their ad agency to task for propping up Consumerist with their ad dollars.

    And, Consumerist better be careful to never say anything nice about cable cos now, lest you all be charged with playing favorites with your advertisers.

  16. Crrusher says:

    now if i could jut find out what the codes were on kellogs creal those bastards

  17. krose says:

    The codes on chocolate actually display the date it was produced, not the date that it expires.

  18. jbinc1 says:

    BTW, my sister used to work for a local candy company (considered one of the finer candy companies). The white stuff that comes to the surface of chocolate is coco butter. It’s in there whether it’s on the surface or not and comes out over time. Dates on the packages are not always a good indicator. If the candy is custom packed as in custom orders or samplers, they have the workers “buff” the surface of the candies to remove it.

    You don’t always get what you think you’re getting.

  19. krose says:

    @krose:

    This is true at least for Nestle and Godiva… I guess Hershey’s is actually an expiration date.

  20. JustaConsumer says:

    I have bitten into some peanut M&Ms that seemed way past their expiration date.

  21. Guizzy says:

    @overbysara: If they were to print that right there, they wouldn’t be able rid of the “expired” stuff. At least, not at the same price as the rest.

  22. The Count of Monte Fisto says:

    @spryte: When dyeing Easter Eggs this year, we discovered at least two eggs that had a hard-to-read date stamp on them … hard to read until you dyed the egg, that is; then it became very legible. Kind of ruined the easter egg effect, though.

  23. Okaasan says:

    @ct_price: I had some of the best chocolate when I was in Ireland a few years ago! It would be worth a return trip just for that – and the bacon and cabbage . . . and the Guiness! Um, I need to renew my passport and call my travel agent.

  24. Mr_Human says:

    @ct_price: I’ve had crappy supermarket chocolate in Germany. Just ’cause it’s Europe doesn’t guarantee good chocolate.

  25. Balisong says:

    Thanks so much for sending this in, Leo! I’m printing this out and sticking it in my wallet – hopefully it’ll help prevent the horror that is old Reese cups >_<

  26. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    But I want my JuJuBes to be stale.
    Then they’re hard & crack when you bite them, not that soft, gummy mess!
    They have an open expiration date on them, I try to find ones that are past that.

  27. consumersaur says:

    @ct_price: Maybe because he lives in America and just wants a snack at 7-11?

  28. Alger says:

    @Guizzy: And yet they manage to print expiration dates on milk without the world coming to an end.

    Perhaps the candy industry thinks they can get away with it because hardly anybody can tell the difference between stale and fresh candy?

  29. SkokieGuy says:

    All these posts and not a single demand for an EECB or charge backs?

    In virtually all jurisdictions, it’s illegal for a merchant to sell food beyond its expiration date.

    And what about M&M’s that are cojoined and clearly deformed? I find this outrageous and suggest a class action.

  30. xmarc says:

    Unfortunately efforts made to legislate “open date coding” on food stuff have been successfully fought by the food industry. It’s good to publish code deciphers on these items.

  31. rawsteak says:

    @backbroken: it doesn’t go bad, it’s just the fat separating from the chocolate which makes the chocolate brittle and a little (or a lot depending on age) less tasty.

    if you have cooking chocolate and it “goes bad,” you can try reheating it slowly to melt the chocolate down to mix the oil back together again…

  32. smallestmills says:

    I work at a store that sells American and European brands of chocolate. The coding depends on the country it was produced in and the country it was produced for. Also, as stated above, depending on the brand, it may be a production date or an expiration date. To decipher, we would have sheets sent out by each manufacturer with the codes and we would tag the merchandise with the end date. Some stuff was shitty, with letters for numbers, so it would read ABFI56P and you’d have to look up to see that each stupid letter stood for a number, which you’d then find out was julian dated, so figuring out these codes would require a calculator and a Mayan calendar. If it was a production date, you’d then have to figure out when it expires.

    In General,
    Non-Filled chocolate has a 24-month shelf life.
    Filled Chocolate has 9 months to 18 months, depending on the manufacturer. (The finer the chocolate, the shorter the time.)

  33. cwlodarczyk says:

    @backbroken: I perform private health inspections for a couple of major retailers – as a part of my job I look for expired products on the shelves.

    Foods which are considered “potentially hazardous” are defined as having a high moisture content, low acidity, and high water activity (free water that may be used by microbes). These types of foods are the ones that you would look at with a concern for spoilage.

    Foods which do not meet the above qualifications do not generally spoil, but are simply beyond what the manufacturer has determined to be the optimal shelf life. They are still safe to eat, and depending on how they’ve been stored, may be indistinguishable from other products on the shelf in terms of taste and quality.

  34. kc2idf says:

    The code for Gertrude Hawk is as follows: There will be a four-digit number printed on the item. The first digit is the last digit of the year of manufacture; the remaining three digits are the day of that year. For example, 8032 would be February 1st, 2008.

    Note, though, that this is the date of manufacture, not the date of expiry. The expiry date is 6 months later.

  35. humphrmi says:

    I agree with the others who say buy chocolate from Europe. Seriously, I realize not everyone can do this, but if you have friends who travel to Europe often, have them buy you chocolate there.

    I go to Switzerland a couple times a year on business now, and I always stock up.

    And I don’t intend to engage any of those Belgian chocolate fanboys / fangirls who say their chocolate is better than Swiss. Feh, whatever, it’s all better than US chocolate.

  36. humphrmi says:

    @cwlodarczyk:

    Foods which are considered “potentially hazardous” are defined as having a high moisture content, low acidity, and high water activity

    LOL as I read your comment, it occurred to me that I learned this very fact about 25 years ago in college Chemistry. Funny how that stuff comes back to haunt you later :)

  37. PeteG says:

    You say ‘candy’ – do you mean chocolate bars? (Sorry, in Canada ‘candy’ is hard candy.) This applies to chocolate bars? If so, thanks for the info! This is really useful, actually, as a lot of random corner shoppes sometimes sell rank, old chocolate bars you don’t realise are so until you’ve taken that first bite and – blech! x

  38. renilyn says:

    @ct_price: Im with you. I have a friend that travels to Germany very often. She buys HUGE amounts of “Milka” brand chocolate to bring back here each time, so that we dont eat the stuff from the US.

  39. Guizzy says:

    @Alger: Expired milk gets all curdly/sour/disgusting. Stale candy is only not as good as fresher candy. If given the choice, I’d rather buy fresher candy than expired candy, unless if the expired candy has been discounted significantly. If it was immediately apparent what candy is expired and what candy isn’t, the good/fresh ones would be quickly sold, and stores would be stuck with loads of expired candy that no one wants to buy when they could buy fresh. So those stores will start requesting fresh candy only from their suppliers, in turn get the problem of getting rid of older candy.

    There’s simply very few incentive for candy companies to do this, whereas the milk industry has to in order to avoid being sued.

  40. katekate says:

    How elitist is it to be like, “Oh, don’t eat AMERICAN chocolate; European chocolate is SO MUCH BETTER”? Guess what, y’all, I can only afford 50 cents for a chocolate bar.

  41. 51tiggy says:

    BackBroken:
    Sugar (and salt) are natural preservatives – some candies will crystallize over time, but I think it would take a loooong time to be worried about adverse gastric effects, other than overindulging

  42. MameDennis says:

    I buy candy from stores with high turnover.

    And, while I love high-quality chocolate, I hope I’m never unable to appreciate a Snickers.

  43. dognose says:

    Are you sure some of the codes aren’t the production dates? I have a bag of chocolate here that starts with 808 serial. It also lists an 06/09 expiration.

  44. RandomHookup says:

    @Crrusher: The codes are on the top of every box in plain English. Almost all cereals have the expiration date on the top.

    Food banks will keep unopened cereal for up to 6 months after the expiration date, so there’s no real hurry (in most cases).

  45. hapless says:

    Eggs, like candy, don’t really go bad. They just get stale as the connective tissue inside decays. Stale eggs are still fine for scrambling, or any recipes that don’t separate the yolk.

    (Bad eggs are bad from day one, whether they’re stale or not, it’s just more noticeable and less safe when they get old.)

    That said, I’m pretty sure that doesn’t apply to organic eggs or eggs you got from your own hens or whatever… the eggs you buy at the grocery are handled and processed carefully, which extends their shelf lives radically.

  46. hapless says:

    @pegr: Bloom can substantially alter chocolate’s taste and texture. If those fats are on the surface, that means they’re not in the bar where they belong.

  47. mermaidshoes says:

    what i really need is some way to tell if vending machine candy is expired before i buy it… or maybe the vendors should check in on the machines more often!

  48. akalish says:

    @ct_price: Consumer preferences in America are for sugar, not chocolate. There have of course been recent evolutions in taste with the rise in “premium” chocolate goods. However, most Americans are still looking for sugar. It is therefore pointless to compare supermarket chocolate in the U.S. to that which is sold in Europe. While you have a right to your opinion, to assume that your opinion is a valid estimation of the manufacturing or importing capacities of U.S. companies is silly. If U.S. consumers desired high cocoa mass chocolate on a broad scale, then the need would be met. If you require more evidence, begin by examining importing trends for fruits and vegetables in the U.S. over the last century. But really it’s just simple economics: a rise in demand is met by a rise in supply. Our economy is market driven.

  49. jstonemo says:

    @51tiggy: I don’t see it as elitist. I compare European chocolates to lobster and American chocolate to Long John Silvers. I eat Long John Silvers for more often than lobster, but when I get a good lobster, it is no comparison.

    American chocolate follows the Wal-Mart principle – cheap, crappy products for the masses at low, low prices. At least it used to be low prices.

  50. SpenceMan01 says:

    In our food cube there’s a big bag of Easter-branded peanut M&Ms with a date-code of 742. Do they really start manufacturing these at the end of October?

  51. backbroken says:

    Thanks to all for the gastronomic straight dope.

    Rules to live by:

    Beer from Canada
    Chocolate from Switzerland
    Cars from Japan
    Everything else from the US

    Assuming you have the means.

  52. Buran says:

    @SpenceMan01: Wonderful. This Easter bag of M&Ms I’ve got here expired in February. That’s ridiculous considering Easter was in late March! (As early as it can be, save for ONE DAY).

    Apparently, yes, they do make them that far in advance. Best eat these before they go bad…

    Thanks for this article. Always liked M&Ms and now I know the secret to picking the right bag. So much for my belief that the holiday versions were “safe”.

    Thankfully, this new bag of Mint Crisp M&Ms (“BIG NEW!” flavor) expires in 07/08.

  53. thrillwill says:

    When I was in Switzerland I had something called a Toblerone and it was much better than American Chocolate.

    Cool thing is when I buy it at CVS it tastes just as good.

  54. This may be a bad time to bring it up, but I think I also heard about Hershey lobbying to change the legal definition of Chocolate in the US so they can use different ingredients…

  55. eelmonger says:

    I’m surprised they gave you the codes, I guess it’s cause you’re a small store. When I worked at a grocery chain, they wouldn’t tell us what the numbers meant, they would instead send a rep to decide what was still fit to sell. The rep didn’t come regularly either, it was usually the result of us calling and saying “Remember that Hulk movie from 2 years ago? Well, we still have Kit-Kat’s with his face on it.”

  56. backbroken says:

    So, with all this expired candy going to waste….how much of the $.75 I pay for a Snickers is paying for spoilage?

  57. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    @thrillwill:
    And I believe Toblerone is owned by Kraft.

  58. Mr. Stupid says:

    I suppose it’s possible that the “7″ could also mean “1997″, not “2007″, right?

  59. kbarrett says:

    Stale candy should be considered “expired”.

    If it gets old enough, the fat that makes the chocolate soft goes rancid.

    Rancid oils are bad for you.

  60. kbarrett says:

    Yep … that “7″ candy could be a decade or two old … heh.

  61. typetive says:

    There’s a different code for Nestle and Farley’s & Sathers too:

    [www.typetive.com]

  62. humphrmi says:

    @Greasy Thumb Guzik: Toblerone is made by Kraft Foods Schweiz AG in Switzerland and is made to Swiss standards.

    Also another option for those who can’t get chocolate from Europe – Lindt is a good every-day Swiss chocolate that is available in a lot of US stores (at least, I see it everywhere here in Suburban Chicago).

  63. Nakko says:

    This is damn near unconscionable: the expiry dates should be in regular, everyday, lay date format. “MAR 2009″ for example. “DEC 2001″ would therefore tell me “Don’t buy this bar of poison. You will probably get sick and miss work. And it won’t even be fun.”

  64. ZekeSulastin says:

    @Buran: They’re not bad. Seriously. They’re M&Ms. They won’t suddenly turn to a gelatinous cube because they’re a little old.

    I again direct you to M&Ms and other candies found in MREs. Tell me, what is the shelf life of an MRE, especially ones sitting in storage stateside? 3+ years at 80 degrees Fahrenheit is mandated. Do you really think they would put in a morale-boosting item that would die after a couple of months?

    It is humorous, though, when you get one of the promotional ones in the thing. Seeing how long I kept getting tie-dye M&Ms comes quickly to mind …

  65. failurate says:

    @ct_price: Yes yes, we all know. Everything in Europe is better than everything in America. We’re stupid. They’re smart. We are wrong. They are right. They’re the best. We’re the wrost. They’re very good-looking. We’re not very attractive.

  66. seapro says:

    I know that is how to read the date on Mars candy but it is the date it was produced and should be good for about a year. Yes to the person who asked about it being made so far in advance. Mars is making Easter candy now for 2009. Most of the Halloween stuff except new items, has already been made. If the item has nuts then the product is good for just at or under a year. So…don’t buy if it starts with a 715 or less, give or take a few weeks.

    They won’t turn to gel but let me tell you those peanuts will taste like crap. I look for peanut mms made 745 or higher.

  67. VA_White says:

    If you have a Cost Plus World Market near you, they are CHOCK FULL of good European chocolate.

  68. failurate says:

    @jstonemo: You know, the country is actually pretty diverse. And, with a little looking, you can find some high quality chocolate made here in the U.S. The cheap stuff may be everywhere and might be blocking your view, but you can find high quality just about anything and everything made here in the U.S.

  69. humphrmi says:

    @failurate: No need to over-react, in this case (chocolate) it’s true. I’m with you on the whole European elitist attitude where some think everything is always our fault. But in this case, I hate to say it, European chocolate is in fact better. It’s not that we’re stupid or anything, they just understand how to make chocolate better. It’s milkier, with higher chocolate content and less sugar, yet even without all the sugar it tastes better. You have to get used to one thing tho – as my Swiss colleague once observed “Why do Americans think that chocolate must go crunch when you bite it?” Most Swiss chocolate is softer, and only crunches when it has nuts in it.

    Also, European beer is better. {/troll ;-) }

  70. pegr says:

    @failurate: Oh, and you’re fat, too.

    /I keed! ;)

  71. baglunch says:

    I haven’t asked very many companies, but the places I have written to have been very prompt and courteous about letting me know how to decipher their codes, frequently including coupons or random swag along with their reply. It seems like it’d be trivial for someone (consumerist?) to write a ton of companies and compile a Master List Cheat Sheet of expiry codes for various products. Of course, a lot of codes aren’t expiry dates, but that sort of variable could be handled on the cheat sheet… like knowing a can of tuna has, say, a 3 year shelf life, if the code is a package date, The Sheet could explain the code, then also mention the actual expiry date. How bout it?

  72. Gann says:

    I ate an almond snickers once that made me sick.

  73. modenastradale says:

    @ct_price: That’s true. American chocolate is absolute crap.

  74. trujunglist says:

    @katekate:

    I’m with you, fuck it. I’ve been to Europe, have tried the chocolate, think it’s great and all, but in the end it’s still a bar of fucking chocolate.

  75. HeartBurnKid says:

    @backbroken: I actually like Sam Adams far more than any Canadian beer brand, and there are numerous smaller breweries in the States that are better then them (try anything by Stone), so I’ll take my beer from America too (as long as it’s not Anheiser-Busch, Coors, Miller, et. al.)

  76. modenastradale says:

    @akalish: Eh, a consumer preference for high sugar and milk contents doesn’t really explain the gap. Plenty of American brands offer varieties of dark chocolate — in fact, dark chocolate is the fastest growing segment in the U.S., and is soon expected to be the dominant consumer preference for many decades.

    American chocolate manufacturers just don’t select the same grade of cocoa or take the same level of care with their products. Ghirardelli is a prototypical example of a “premium” American chocolatier. Its products are OK, but they’re kind of flat. They lack the subtlety and richness of many less expensive European brands.

    That said, there are some mom-and-pop shops that produce nice chocolate pieces (Oh Chocolate! in Seattle comes to mind)… but even then, most of the appeal is from the structure and preparation of the candies, not the quality of the chocolate itself.

    @humphrmi:

    I think Switzerland sells the best chocolate. France and the Netherlands sell the best cocoa. And Belgium indisputably sells the best chocolate pieces. :-)

  77. typetive says:

    baglunch – I suggested just that at lifehacker a couple of times, no one seems to think that’s very useful (or doesn’t want to go around compiling the info).

  78. Buran says:

    @ZekeSulastin: They do taste fine. Many things are OK past exp. date. But they should not be SELLING expired food; I picked this off the shelf in mid-March. Sorry if I implied that I wouldn’t eat them; they taste (mostly) fine.

  79. Imaginary_Friend says:

    American candy is garbage these days. Even the old standards like Snickers, Baby Ruth, Jr. Mints, Hershey bars and Butterfingers are fake tasting, too sweet, and just downright inedible. The last time I ate a Butterfinger, it gave me an immediate stomachache and I had the runs for two days. That is insane! I thought it must have been coincidence, so I waited a few months and tried it again; same result. Never again.

    The people who’ve said that European chocolate tastes better aren’t being snobs, they’re just telling the truth. If you can’t tell the difference, I pity you cause you’ve probably never had real chocolate before.

    Someone mentioned Lindt; I agree, it’s pretty good, but the texture is very creamy. It takes getting used to. You can buy Lindt at Target, Cost Plus, Trader Joe’s, and in a giant double bag for $20.00 at Costco during the holiday season.

    [www.lindtusa.com]

    Another good brand is Ritter Sport. It’s also very creamy, but they do have a couple of nutty/chocolate varieties too. You can pick up Ritter at Trader Joe’s for about $1.79 and at Target for about $1.59-$2.19 (depends on whether it’s on sale or not).

    [tinyurl.com]

    Trader Joe’s also sells Valrhona’s regular line:

    [www.valrhona.com]

    And if you want to try some truly decadent chocolates, Vosges will be right up your alley:

    [tinyurl.com]

  80. @Greasy Thumb Guzik: I used to do the same thing with chewing gum: I bought it from my local Best Buy specifically because it was so old that it was crunchy. But once you started chewing, it turned soft.

  81. Me. says:

    @bdsakx:

    That happened to me! I bought a candy bar & the wrapper felt weird and when I opened it, it just looked weird. So I started reading the fine print for a contest advertised on the wrapper. The contest ended in December of 1995. This happened in 2001!

    I can only assume that it fell behind something in the storage room and the owners just threw it back on the shelf when they found it.

  82. Maulleigh says:

    ?? I’m looking at a Cadbury fruit and nut bar I bought at Conway and it’s got a code on it of 8L.

    I understand the 8 but not the L.

    *sigh* Who am I kidding? I’m going to eat it anyway.

  83. mariospants says:

    @Balisong: “Thanks so much for sending this in, Leo! I’m printing this out and sticking it in my wallet – hopefully it’ll help prevent the horror that is old Reese cups >_<”

    There’s no such thing as an old Reese Peanut Butter Cup… what terrible, irrational person would leave one festering on a store shelf that long? Seriously, I don’t know how store employees stop themselves from just scarfing them by the armload every day…

  84. typetive says:

    @Maulleigh: 8 is the year of expiration and L is the month (each month is a letter … there are 12 months so L is December).

    You’re just fine! (Cadbury is made by Hershey’s in the US.)

  85. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    You can also buy 70% cacao dark chocolate, Moser-Roth, at Aldi for $1.49 for 125 grams [4.41 oz.]
    It’s made in Germany & is at the registers, not in the candy section.
    It has an open dated expiration date.

  86. baglunch says:

    Dunno if it qualifies, but in Canada, at the local Thrifty’s supermarket, you can buy bricks of Bernard Callebout chocolate (milk, dark, even nonsweetened) of arbitrary size from the bakery. They get them in these massive Ten Commandments style blocks that probably weight 50 lbs. And it costs less than the garbage chocolate on the shelves.

  87. julieannie says:

    Back in 2005 during an internship with a retailer, I had to dispose of expired candy. Some as old as 2002 with Shrek covering the bags. Yuck.

  88. elisa says:

    @Imaginary_Friend: There’s also Scharffenberger, which was recently bought by Hershey, but is still really good. It’s not too sweet. They also do factory tours in Berkeley, if you’re ever in the area.

    You can get it at Trader Joe’s etc. And it’s in a Peets drink.

    [www.scharffenberger.com]

  89. V-effekt says:

    Forget going to Europe. Buy online in dollars.

    [www.germandeli.com]

    And Aldi Chocolate is dog food. :)

  90. Buran says:

    @ZekeSulastin: oh, random trivia: M&Ms were originally developed to be used in MREs and to not melt in heat, so I’m not surprised you’re getting them there.

  91. KogeLiz says:

    Yes. A lot of products use these types of date codes. This also goes for electronic components.

    It can be:

    040741A (04 of 07 and the rest being part of a lot code)
    2C (March of 2002)

    and then it can really complicated… like having to contact the manufacturers for their codes… or having to skip some numbers.

  92. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @elisa: Thanks, Elisa. I’m in Berkeley about every three months; I’ll definitely have to check them out.

    I forgot to mention Guittard; they’re kinda hard to find, but their dark chocolate chips (in the yellow bag) make the absolute best chocolate chip cookies and homemade fudge. No lie!

    [guittard-online.stores.yahoo.net]

    Ghirardelli (60% Cacao Bittersweet Baking Chips) aren’t too bad either if you can’t find Guittard. You can buy Ghirardelli at most Safeways.

    [www.ghirardelli.com]

  93. Darkwish says:

    At least it’s no longer expired once a decade! And I don’t care if it won’t hurt you, if it’s turned white from the “bloom” or whatever it’s called, it’s bad. It tastes like crap when it gets that way, no matter what the quality of the chocolate was.

    As for the American/European debate, here’s my 2 cents:

    Overall, European chocolate is higher quality, but can be lacking in sugar.

    American chocolate tends to be lower quality (especially the generic brands), but is also sweeter because they use more sugar.

    I’ve had some really good European chocolate and some really nasty stuff too. The same goes for American chocolate. A lot of it is personal preference. Either way, try to avoid the generic brands.

  94. cockeyed says:

    @ct_price: not all of us has the money to go to europe and “stock up” every so often.
    I do loathe american chocolate. I had european chocolate once when a friend came back from a trip, and it was the first time I enjoyed chocolate.

  95. SamVed says:

    @SkokieGuy
    “In virtually all jurisdictions, it’s illegal for a merchant to sell food beyond its expiration date.”

    Actually, it does not appear to be the case!! Here is what the USDA site tells us:

    “Is Dating Required by Federal Law?
    Except for infant formula and some baby food, product dating is not generally required by Federal regulations.[...] There is no uniform or universally accepted system used for food dating in the United States. Although dating of some foods is required by more than 20 states, there are areas of the country where much of the food supply has some type of open date and other areas where almost no food is dated.”

  96. backbroken says:

    @HeartBurnKid: You are right….there’s PLENTY of good American beer. I just can’t get it where I live. There are 3 categories of beer in 99% of the bars in Pittsburgh:

    regular (bud, miller)
    light (coors light, bud light)
    exotic (molson, labatt)

    Yes, mass produced Canadian beer qualifies as exotic and Yeungling qualifies as a microbrew. It’s a sad state of affairs.

  97. RulesLawyer says:

    Hmm. Each of my individual M&Ms have the expiration date written on them in some kind of roman numeral code. Looks like they expired 1008 years ago.

  98. metahari says:

    Actually, the M&M Mars/Masterfoods code is *not* an expiration date but the date the candy was made. The “best by” date for most of the chocolate candies would be one year after it was made… A code starting with “804″ expires the 4th week of 2009 because it was made the 4th week of 2008. (You can confirm it’s not an expiration date if you pick up something with a contest on the wrapper and compare the code to the entry period for the contest.)

    The code on Wrigley products is simply DDMMYY–”310308″ would expire on March 31, 2008.

  99. Anonymous says:

    The code on Mars wrappers is the date of manufacture, not expiration. They have a shelf life of 1 year from the code. I just called the 1-800 because according to this article, all of my stock was expired. Come to find out, it is all still fresh to eat.