How Long Do We Have Before Halloween Candy Goes Bad?

On Halloween day, my youngest son asked me what he should do with his old Halloween candy. I said, what do you mean? You haven't gone trick-or-treating yet. He tells me he still has candy left over from last year in his closet.

After my initial surprise, I told him to show me the candy. He opened the closet door and pulled out last year's Halloween trick-or-treat bag, which was full of individual plastic sandwich bags full of Snickers, Twix, Butterfingers, M&Ms, Whoppers and so on.

I have to admit, my initial inclination was to consume them (no, I didn't), then I had a passing thought to re-give them out to trick-or-treaters (of course I would not do that).

My son told me we should throw them away because they were old. But I hate throwing stuff away that's still good, so I decided to keep the candy and take a closer look at their "best before" dates.

So what exactly is a "best before" date? There is no mention of it on the Snickers or Mars websites, but the Hershey website indicates this is the last date a product can be expected to be at its "peak freshness." Hershey goes on to indicate that most candy products maintain their best flavor for up to 12 months after they are made and that there may be flavor loss or texture changes past the "best before" date.

But there is no mention of "thou shall not eat candy past the best before date." So it begged the question, are these dates required by law?

The USDA confirms that "Best if Used By (or Before)" dates are not required by federal law and indeed relate to best flavor or quality, not safety. So...yes, it's generally OK to eat candy (and other foods), past that date.

My son, who is not a Snickers fan, thankfully (for me, indeed a Snickers fan) scored a full sized Snickers bar last Halloween as well as this Halloween. I devoured last year's Snickers bar, with a "best before" date of May 2015, a full 5 months after said date. It was not bad. Not quite as good as this year's Snickers bar, but quite edible. 

Full size Snickers bars received by son this Halloween and last halloween display "Best Before" Dates

Full size Snickers bars received by son this Halloween and last halloween display "Best Before" Dates

He also gave me numerous Snickers "fun size" bars from last year's Halloween stash. These ones for some reason have no dates on them. The quality was slightly lower. I might not eat them now, but perhaps would save them as a pick-me-up in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

On to Nestle Crunch bars. According to, the recommended shelf life of a Nestle Crunch 1.55 oz bar is 15 months. I see no such date on the mini size bars.

The Reese's Peanut Butter Cup made by Hershey does show a date, though given their popularity in this household is usually a moot point as they are usually consumed within hours, if not minutes.

According to "Your Ultimate Shelf Life Guide," you can generally keep chocolate covered candy bars in the pantry, refrigerator or freezer for 10 to 12 months. And the site reiterates that such storage times are for best quality only - in most cases, it will still be safe to consume your candy if it has been stored properly.

On that note, I better run off and eat a salad or something to counteract all the candy I just ate.