In this brief guide, we will answer the question, can you eat 2-year-old Christmas pudding? We will discuss if you can eat a 2-year-old Christmas pudding and the factors that make Christmas pudding have a long shelf-life and some potential health risks.
Can you eat 2-year-old Christmas pudding?
You can eat 2-year-old Christmas pudding, however, there are several reasons not to do so. You do not want to risk falling ill by eating 2-year-old Christmas pudding. Before you eat your 2-year-old Christmas pudding, check if it is safe and does not have any off-odor, unusual texture, or creatures such as maggots.
Changes on the texture are related to the starch retrogradation and the destabilization of milk casein micelles. During long storage of pudding, there is an increase in sour taste, cooked flavor, and rancid flavor, and a significant decrease in the pudding aroma intensity. Cooked and rancid off-flavors have been associated with heated and lipolyzed milk. The formation of volatile sulfur compounds and Maillard reaction products contributed to the cooked flavor (1).
People do eat Christmas pudding that is past its expiration date, as Christmas pudding is not susceptible to spoilage.
In a survey study in Turkey, about 59.3% of the respondents still make confusion regarding the meaning of “best before” label thinking that it is the same as “use by”. Only 39.3% of the respondents correctly identified that food is still safe to eat after the “best before” date as long as it is not damaged or deteriorated (7).
Christmas pudding counts as a low moisture food with a long shelf-life. The moisture that you observe in a Christmas pudding is due to fat while the water molecules are bound to sugar.
In a study, the concentration of ethanol in common Christmas puddings ranged from 0.260 to 1.685 g per 125 mg slice (2). This is enough to prevent microbial growth. The results of studies suggest that ethanol could act as an effective additional barrier to inhibit fungal growth in bakery products. Thus it represents an interesting alternative to the use of chemical preservatives and merits further research (3).
You do not need to worry about Christmas pudding spoiling sooner than it should. In fact, Christmas pudding has been known to last longer than its best-before date.
On the other hand, you cannot be absolutely sure if your 2-year-old Christmas pudding is safe to eat. 2-year-old Christmas pudding can possibly be edible but you do not want to risk your health for it. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a sensitive stomach, then you should only eat food that is safe.
If you did not open your pack of Christmas pudding, then your Christmas pudding is possibly safe. A package that is sealed ensures that microorganisms do not enter. If food such as your Christmas pudding is in its aseptic packaging from the manufacturer, then there is a high chance that your 2-year-old Christmas pudding is still fresh.
However, studies showed that two outbreaks of giardiasis indicated a role for zoonotic transmission, namely the consumption of a Christmas pudding contaminated with rodent feces (6).
Why does 2-year-old Christmas pudding stay edible?
The answer to the life of any food lies in its ingredients. Some foods have preservatives to make food last longer but other times the ingredients act as preservatives and give your food a longer shelf-life.
Christmas pudding is a low moisture food. The moisture is taken up by sugar, making none of it available for bacteria.
When water molecules are bound with ethanol through weak hydrogen bonds, this leaves less free water available, and microbes have less water to survive on. This resulted in a preservative effect towards certain food products, when alcohol is added as an ingredient in the food formulation, before cooking. As ethanol reduces the water activity in food, this characteristic helps preserve high moisture food by delaying microbial spoilage, as free water which is available for the microorganisms are reduced, through reduction of water activity (aw). An example of such a product is the Christmas pudding, cherry in wine alcohol or mixed fruit cake. Brandy or whiskey provide a prolonged shelf life (4).
In Christmas pudding, the ingredients that act as preservatives are sugar and alcohol. Sugar and alcohol are natural preservatives. Sugar and alcohol are both dominant ingredients in Christmas pudding. A sweet dish is not complete without being loaded with sugar while the traditional Christmas pudding calls that it be drenched with brandy.
However, the expiration date on the package is for a reason and should be adhered to. Even though it is a common practice among chefs and food experts to eat old Christmas pudding , it is best to be safe. If you suspect something is wrong, do not eat it.
How do sugar and alcohol protect your Christmas pudding?
Sugar keeps moisture and bacterial activity at bay. Sugar reduces the water activity of the substance it is dissolved in.
As sugar binds water to itself, there is none left for bacteria to enter and multiply. Hence, food that is heavily sweetened will take a long time to spoil.
Sugar is why desserts and sweet food take a long time to spoil and do not need to be refrigerated.
The other ingredient is alcohol. Alcohol is an ever-lasting chemical that does not spoil. Alcoholic beverages such as wine do not perish with age as they are immune to bacteria and contaminants.
Alcohol is a sterilizing agent, bacteria cannot multiply where alcohol is. Hence, your Christmas pudding stays for a very long time if you put brandy in it. Certain combinations of preservatives, e.g ethanol or sorbic acid, or vinegar and calcium propionate (0.10% each), have proved to be useful measures to improve the life of baked goods (5).
Has anyone eaten a Christmas pudding that is half a decade old?
In 2017, 48-year-old Christmas pudding was discovered. The article published in the Nottingham post stated that the dry pudding was tested in the lab for safety and then tasted as well.
The scientists at the University of Nottingham tested the Christmas pudding for Salmonella and E coil that turned out negative for both the food-borne bacteria. In addition, there was no yeast or mold observed in the Christmas pudding.
According to scientists at the University of Nottingham, bacteria cannot grow in the Christmas pudding because there is no water available. Although there is moisture, there’s a difference between food appearing moist to eat and the availability of water which microbes need to grow. Because the water molecules are bound to sugar and alcohol molecules, there is no free water for the development of bacteria.
Moreover, people who tasted the 48-year-old Christmas pudding described it as more delicious than freshly-baked Christmas pudding.
Christmas pudding was sterilized by boiling for several hours before it was tasted by the scientists. A long cooking time means that the Christmas pudding was made safe as most of the bacteria are killed during the heating process.
In this brief guide, we answered the question, can you eat 2-year-old Christmas pudding? We discussed if you can eat a 2-year-old Christmas pudding and the factors that make Christmas pudding have a long shelf-life and some potential health risks.
Other FAQs about Pudding that you may be interested in.
- Moufle, AL., François, PA., Jamet, J. et al. Accelerated Aging Test of Sterilized Acidic Pudding: Combined Effects of Temperature, Headspace Volume, and Agitation. Food Bioprocess Technol, 2018, 11, 1286–1299.
- Brieger, Daniel G., et al. What proof is in your Christmas pudding? Is caring under the influence possible?. Med J Aust, 2014, 201, 702-704.
- Axel, Claudia, Emanuele Zannini, and Elke K. Arendt. Mold spoilage of bread and its biopreservation: A review of current strategies for bread shelf life extension. Crit Rev food sci nutr, 2017, 57, 3528-3542.
- Rahim, Alina Abdul, and Siti Mashitoh Abdul. The uncertain halal status of edible products with natural or added alcohol. J Fatwa Manage Res, 2014, 3, 109-126.
- Needham, Rachel, et al. Early detection and differentiation of spoilage of bakery products. Sens Actuat B Chem, 2005, 106, 20-23.
- Smith, H. V., et al. Cryptosporidium and Giardia as foodborne zoonoses. Veterinary parasitology, 2007, 149, 29-40.
- Yildirim, Heval, et al. Food wastage in Turkey: An exploratory survey on household food waste. J Food Nutr Res, 2016, 4, 483-489.