Can sprinkles go bad? (+3 Ways to tell)

In this article, we will answer the question “Can sprinkles go bad?”, and how to tell If sprinkles are bad?

If you have leftover sprinkles from your last party and you are not confident about if it is safe to use, or how to properly store them, this brief guide is for you! 

Can sprinkles go bad?

Yes, sprinkles can go bad majorly because they lose their flavour and texture over time. Sprinkles will hardly go bad for developing bacteria or mold unless exposed to moisture. 

According to Kačániová and Juhaniaková [1], confectionery products are regarded as being microbiologically stable and safe to eat because they are low moisture and low water activity (Aw) products. 

Aw is a food science term to express how much of the total amount of water in foods is available for microbial growth. Aw is expressed in absolute values between 0 (complete absence of free water) and 1 (water completely free). 

The water content of sprinkles is around 10%, while their Aw is between 0.5 – 0.65 [2]. Research has now established that in Aw below 0.85, the proliferation of most microorganisms is drastically reduced or unexistent [3]. So here it is why your sprinkles last so long in the pantry! 

The reduced Aw of confectionery foods is due to the addition of large amounts of sugar, which promotes a simulated drying process by bounding water and making it unavailable for microbial use. 

According to Betts and others [4], when a microorganism is placed into a low Aw environment, it will lose water to the environment until it gets dehydrated and undergoes cell wall breaking. 

How to tell If sprinkles have gone bad?

  • Some sprinkle flavors are rich in fat, such as chocolate, while several types of sprinkles contain fat in their recipes. 

For this reason, they are prone to fat oxidation [5], which leads to a rancid smell when they go bad. 

  • If the sprinkles look pale and/or develop spots, they have gone bad.
  • Pay attention to the texture. If the sprinkles develop a soft and soggy texture instead of firm and crunchy, It means the occurrence of water absorption. It is time to get rid of them. 

Do sprinkles expire?

Like any other food commodity, sprinkles will expire too. Because the sprinkles are shelf stable, they can last about 3 years past their expiration date If stored correctly [6]. 

Can I eat expired sprinkles?

You can eat expired sprinkles for up to 3 years after expiration day [6], as long as they have been properly stored and manipulated, and do not show any sign of spoiling, such as strange smell, cluster formation, or color vanishing. 

Sprinkles usually have a best-before date and not a use-by-date [6]. According to the UK Food Agency Standards [7], a use-by date relates to food safety, while a best-before date refers to food quality.

In other words, even if the date printed on the label is passed, the product is still microbiologically safe, perhaps sensory aspects may be declining. Because of this distinction, you may safely use sprinkles after the best-before date has lapsed.

Can I get any foodborne diseases from eating sprinkles?

No, it is very unlikely that you will get any foodborne disease from eating sprinkles because pathogenic bacteria (those that cause disease) are unable to proliferate in foods with such low moisture (around 10%). 

Nevertheless, recent studies reported the possibility of low-moisture foods like sprinkles serving as vehicles for dangerous microorganisms [8]. 

Sprinkles can get contaminated if manipulated with poor hygienic practices (e.g. unwashed hands). Although no proliferation is observed, bacteria can resist for days or months and be transferred to dishes that sprinkle ornate, like cakes, where proliferation may be favored [8].

What makes sprinkles vulnerable to spoiling?

Temperature fluctuations and mainly exposure to moisture make the sprinkle highly susceptible to spoilage.  

Incorrect stock conditions, such as in high-moisture environments, will cause an increment in the water content and Aw of sprinkles, favor microorganisms’ growth, and decrease shelf life [8]. 

If the sprinkles are in sealed packs, storing them under recommended conditions will make their quality last longer.   

How to store sprinkles? 

Store sprinkles in a clean, cool, and dry place, in airtight containers. If you are storing an open pack, this will prevent undesirable aroma absorption and moisture gain. 

Despite not being necessary, sprinkles can be stored in the fridge or even in the freezer.  Cold is a preservation method for highly perishable foods, like fresh meat and vegetables, which show high moisture and Aw. 

Because sprinkles have very low water content, storing them in the fridge or freezer aiming at longer preservation is waste of time. So keeping it in the pantry is recommended.

For refrigerating your baked goods or desserts that have sprinkles on them, wrap them with a plastic sheet. This will prevent the sprinkles from picking up bad odors while also preventing them from melting when they are out of the fridge.


In this article, we answered the question “Can sprinkles go bad?”, and how to tell If sprinkles are bad?


  1. Kacaniova M, Juhaniakova L. Microorganisms in confectionery products. J microb biotech food sci. 2011;1(1):57-69.
  2. Prouvot MB, Avelar MH, Ramos KK, Costa BS, Efraim P. Utilização de subprodutos do processamento de frutas na elaboração de confeitos drageados macios de açúcar. Rev trab. Iniciaç. Cient.UNICAMP. 2018; 26. 
  3. Man CMD. Technological functions of salt in food products. In: Kilcast D, Angus F, editors.; 2007. p. 157-73.
  4. Betts L, Everis L, Betts R. In: Kilcast D, Angus F, editors. Reducing Salt in Foods: Woodhead Publishing; 2007. p. 157-73.
  5. Hartel RW, Elbe JHv, Hofberger R. Confectionery Science and Technology: Springer; 2018.
  8. Beuchat LR, Komitopoulou E, Beckers H, Betts RP, Bourdichon F, Fanning S, et al. Low–Water Activity Foods: Increased Concern as Vehicles of Foodborne Pathogens. Journal of Food Protection. 2013;76(1):150-72.

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