Can you eat an expired hamburger helper?
In this article we are going to answer whether you can eat expired hamburger helper, what are the risks of eating hamburger helper after the use-by date, and how you should store hamburger helper so it can last longer.
Hamburger helper is a product containing dry pasta and dry flavor mix to be cooked and added by ground beef or other ingredients, according to personal preferences.
Can you eat expired hamburger helper?
Yes, you can eat hamburger helper after the expiration date. Although hamburger helper does not have an expiration date, but a best-by date that recommends you to consume the product prior to that date, it can degrade with time.
However, hamburger helper can be eaten after the best-by date if no signs of spoilage are noticeable (1). You can eat hamburger helper safely up to 2 years after the use-by date when kept unopened and stored correctly (2).
The best-by date indicates the time that a food keeps its nutritional and sensory properties as it is expected by the consumer. After this date, the manufacturer does not guarantee its quality (5).
What are the risks of eating hamburger helper after the use-by date?
The risks of eating hamburger helper after the use-by date are, in a short term, of having foodborne disease and, in the long term, of having higher possibility of developing an inflammatory disease.
Hamburger helper is a dry mix made of ingredients which undergo oxidation with time. Vegetable oil, milk and whey are some examples of ingredients that are susceptible to oxidation and that generate oxidation products, such as aldehydes, hydroperoxides, ketones and epoxides.
When frequently consumed, these compounds, which are able to react with molecules and cells in the body, may lead to diseases in the long term, such as cancer, atherosclerosis and early aging (7).
In the short term, the ingestion of contaminated hamburger helper can cause foodborne illness. Although being a low-moisture food that does not support the growth of microorganisms easily, several food outbreaks have been reported in these types of food.
Pathogens such as Salmonella, Bacillus cereus, Clostridium, Escherichia coli O157:H7, non-O157 E. coli, and Staphylococcus aureus are able to develop in low-moisture foods (3).
Common symptoms of foodborne illnesses are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps and fever (5).
How to know if hamburger helper is spoiled?
To know if hamburger helper is spoiled, you should be able to identify any signs of spoilage. Low-moisture foods generally manifest spoilage through oxidation and changes in the texture, especially by caking or clumping (4).
Oxidation can be noticed by the generation of off-odors and off-flavors related to rancidity. Soapy taste is a sign of lipid oxidation caused by enzymes, while oxidation reactions leading to rancidity can be accelerated by external factors, such as heat, metal ions or exposure to light.
Other possible signs are the growth of mold and discoloration, as well as the generation of gas and slime (10).
What is the shelf life of hamburger helpers?
The shelf life of a hamburger helper is 1-2 years stored at room temperature. However, the shelf life depends on the storage conditions, especially the temperature and moisture, as well as the packaging material (5,8).
Dry pasta has a shelf life of 2 years (8) while dry mixes have a shelf life of 1 year or according to the manufacturer´s best-by date indications. However, as previously mentioned, hamburger helper can be consumed 2 years after its best-by date, according to studies of the University of Wisconsin (2,9).
How do you store hamburger helpers so they can last longer?
An unopened box of hamburger helpers should be stored in a cool dry place away from moisture. An unopened box should not be stored in the refrigerator or freezer, unless you ensure that it will not absorb moisture from the fridge or freezer, by placing it in a water-proof package (6).
The increase in moisture can lead to the development of microorganisms and accelerate degradation reactions, such as oxidation (3,4).
Once cooked, the hamburger helper should be stored in an airtight container and can last up to 3 days if stored at 40°F or 4°C. You can also freeze the hamburger helper once cooked and store it in the freezer for 2 months (9).
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This article answered whether you can eat expired hamburger helper, what are the risks of eating hamburger helper after the use-by date, and how you should store hamburger helper so it can last longer.
- Food product dating. United States Department of Agriculture.
- Safe and Healthy: Food Product Dating. University of Wisconsin.
- Sánchez-Maldonado, Alma Fernanda, Alvin Lee, and Jeffrey M. Farber. Methods for the control of foodborne pathogens in low-moisture foods. Ann Rev Food Sci Technol, 2018, 9, 177-208.
- Bonazzi, Catherine, and Elisabeth Dumoulin. Quality changes in food materials as influenced by drying processes. Modern drying technology, 2011.
- World Health Organization. Food Safety: What you should know. No. SEA-NUT-196. World Health Organization, 2015.
- Van Laanen, Peggy. Safe home food storage. Texas Farmer Collection. 2002.
- Schaich, Karen M. Toxicity of lipid oxidation products consumed in the diet. Bailey’s Ind Oil Fat Prod, John Wiley & Sons: Hoboken, NJ, USA. 2020, 1-88.
- Shelf stable food safety. United States Department of Agriculture.
- Foodkeeper. United States Department of Agriculture.
- Rawat, Seema. Food Spoilage: Microorganisms and their prevention. Asian j plant sci Res, 2015, 5, 47-56.