Did you know that spices have a “best if used by” date? Some of them do. In my spice collection about half of them have a “best if used by” date. For example, the ground mustard I recently purchased is best if used by 2014.
What does this “best if used by”date mean for spices? It means that the flavor is best when the product is no older than its best by date. It does not mean the spices will spoil after their allotted time. Some companies do not put a “best if used by” date on their spices because spices can last indefinitely. The flavor slowly decreases over time, but that is about it. It is up to the consumer to decide what is acceptable flavor.
Growing up, I thought spices lasted forever. We only bought new spices if the old bottle was completely empty. I never really noticed a flavor change, but then, I never checked. In contrast, at work we changed the spices every year. It is important for food product developers to have fresh seasonings when making new formulas (recipes). Fresh spices from the same company have a fairly consistent taste. This is important because the formula is followed strictly in production. There is no room for adding a pinch of this or a dash of that to compensate for old, dull tasting spices. At home, fresh spices are not as important because if the food tastes a little bland you can always add more.
So, do spices expire? Not really, but you will notice a flavor difference after a few years.
Photo by: Grz3gorz