Can You Eat Kraft Mac and Cheese After the Expiration Date?

The other day I was rummaging through my pantry and found a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese tucked way in the back behind some cans of soup. I pulled it out and realized it was a couple months past the expiration date printed on the packaging.

I pondered whether I should toss it in the trash or if it might still be okay to eat. I definitely didn’t want to risk getting sick from expired food, but at the same time I hated to waste it if it was still edible.

This got me thinking – can you actually eat Kraft mac and cheese after the expiration date? I decided to dig into this cheesy question and find out.

A Brief History of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

Before exploring the safety of eating expired Kraft mac and cheese, let’s first look at what exactly this iconic food is.

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese first hit shelves in 1937 and could be purchased for 19 cents a box. It quickly became a beloved American staple due to its convenience, kid-friendly taste, and inexpensive price point.

The classic version is composed of macaroni noodles and a powdered cheese sauce made primarily from whey, milkfat, milk protein concentrate, salt, and various stabilizers and emulsifiers. To prepare it, you boil the pasta, drain, add margarine, pour the cheese powder, and stir in milk.

Today Kraft Macaroni & Cheese continues to be immensely popular, with over one million boxes sold every day in the United States. It’s a pantry staple for many families with kids. The shelf-stable boxes boast a typical unopened shelf life of about 12-24 months. Once opened, it will last about 10-12 days refrigerated.

Can You Eat Unopened Expired Kraft Mac and Cheese?

Okay, back to the main question at hand. Can you eat boxes of Kraft mac and cheese after the printed expiration date?

The answer is likely yes for unopened packages, as long as you evaluate the condition carefully beforehand.

An unopened box of Kraft mac and cheese can potentially stay fresh and edible for 1-2 years past the expiration date printed on the package. However, that depends on proper storage conditions. Storing it in a cool, dry pantry helps it retain its quality and freshness longer. Storage in a humid environment or temperature extremes can shorten its shelf life.

Before consuming Very Expired Mac and Cheese, examine it closely and give it a sniff test. Look for any signs of spoilage like mold, clumping of the noodles, or an off smell. Don’t eat it if you notice any of those things.

As long as there are no obvious indications of spoilage though, the product is likely still safe to eat. Its quality slowly diminishes over time but remains edible long past the date on the package. Eating very old Kraft mac and cheese that’s stale but not spoiled poses a very minor level of risk.

Many people safely consume boxes from 1 to even 2 years past date. Some even claim boxes stored for 5-10 years still tasted fine! That’s a long shelf life for a box of instant pasta and cheese powder.

Freezing unopened Kraft mac and cheese boxes can further prolong their expiration date by several months or longer. Just make sure to check for signs of damage to the packaging after defrosting before eating.

Is Expired Opened Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Safe to Eat?

While consuming aged but unopened boxes comes with minimal risk, eating Kraft mac and cheese that is both expired and opened is far more dicey.

Once the package is opened and exposed to air, bacteria can start growing. The ingredients also begin deteriorating in quality and taste fairly quickly. For these reasons, it’s generally not recommended to eat previously opened mac and cheese past the printed expiration date.

To avoid potential foodborne illness, discard any refrigerated Kraft macaroni and cheese once it surpasses the expiration date printed on the package. Typically that is 10-12 days after opening the box.

Even if it looks okay, it’s risky to eat. Bacteria growth is not always visible. An expired opened package also tends to take on a sour flavor and unpleasant odor.

If you do try eating very expired opened Kraft mac and cheese, thoroughly reheat it first to reduce potential bacteria levels. Still, it’s best not to chance it given the heightened risk with open packages.

Signs that opened refrigerated mac and cheese has spoiled and should be immediately discarded include mold, clumping, curdling, changes in color, and a rancid smell. Don’t taste test questionable mac and cheese. When in doubt, throw it out.

Food Safety Risks of Eating Expired Kraft Mac and Cheese

Consuming passed its prime Kraft mac and cheese comes with some degree of food safety risk. However, the chances of contracting a foodborne illness are very low from unopened boxes stored properly.

Eating old mac and cheese that was previously opened carries a higher risk of possible food poisoning, but this remains uncommon. Potential issues from spoiled dairy products include:

  • Upset stomach, abdominal cramps, nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever

The severity of symptoms depends on the individual and the amount of contaminated food consumed. In otherwise healthy adults, sickness from eating expired Kraft mac and cheese would likely be temporary and mild in most cases. Still, it’s smart to discard overly expired opened products to avoid this prospect.

Infants, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems face higher risks from foodborne pathogens. They should absolutely avoid eating expired items, even unopened.

Proper Storage Extends Shelf Life

To maximize the shelf life of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and keep it safe to eat, proper storage is key. Here are some quick tips:

  • Store unopened boxes at room temperature in a cool, dry pantry away from direct sunlight and high heat. Avoid humid environments.
  • Once opened, immediately refrigerate the mac and cheese. Keep for no longer than 3-5 days after opening before throwing away.
  • Freeze opened mac and cheese to prolong its shelf life. It will keep for 6-8 months in the freezer.

Following the package instructions and these storage guidelines minimizes spoilage and maximizes the time you can safely keep Kraft mac and cheese.

Change in Texture and Flavor After Expiration

While still reasonably safe to eat in most cases, Kraft mac and cheese that has surpassed its expiration date undergoes changes to its taste and texture:

  • The noodles become stale, mushy, and soggy. They start deteriorating as moisture is lost.
  • The cheese powder loses its vibrant orange color and intensifies in salty flavor. The tangy cheesy taste diminishes.
  • Reheating expired mac and cheese can improve the noodle’s softened texture but it won’t revive the diminished cheese powder flavors.

-If mold is present, it will impart musty off-flavors. Never eat mac and cheese with visible mold.

Essentially, very old Kraft mac and cheese loses its quality in terms of mouthfeel and flavor. The noodles get limp and the cheese tastes bland. It’s edible but not nearly as appetizing.

The Verdict on Eating Expired Kraft Mac and Cheese

In summary, here are the key takeaways on the safety and palatability of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese past its expiration date:

  • Unopened boxes remain edible long after the printed date, as long as properly stored in a cool, dry pantry. Visually inspect for spoilage first.
  • Once opened, eat refrigerated mac and cheese within 3-5 days and don’t consume after it expires for safety. Toss expired opened packages.
  • Stale texture and muted flavors develop but very old Kraft mac and cheese is unlikely to make you sick if no visible mold or smells. Still, err on the side of caution if highly expired.
  • Best practice is to fully follow package instructions and don’t eat Kraft products past their expiration. For ideal taste and food safety, consume within dates on the label.

My verdict after researching this cheesy topic? That box lurking in my pantry is getting tossed. As curious as I am to see how 10-year-old mac and cheese tastes, it’s not worth potentially getting diarrhea or vomiting over. When in doubt, throw it out!

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