Can you eat Christmas pudding after the best before date?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, can you eat Christmas pudding after the best before date? We will discuss if you should eat Christmas pudding after the best before date and some factors to consider before you eat old Christmas pudding.

Can you eat Christmas pudding after the best before date?

Yes, you can eat Christmas pudding after the best-before date. Generally, after the best before date passes, the Christmas pudding starts to lose its flavor and dry out. Christmas pudding stays edible and even fresh after its best-before date has passed.

Before you eat your Christmas pudding, check if it is safe and does not have any off-odor, unusual texture, or color. If you store your Christmas pudding properly, it does not go bad. In a refrigerator, Christmas pudding lasts for  3-4 months in the refrigerator, and a year in the freezer.

It has been reported that sales of ready-to-eat cereal fall by 10-20% during the week before, or the week of, the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in The States, while sales of pie crust increase by anywhere from 50-225% (5).

The best-by date is an indicator of the optimum quality of food. The best by date does not necessarily tell you if the food has become unsafe. Hence, in most cases, Christmas pudding would stay safe long after the best before date. 

In a study, the concentration of ethanol in common Christmas puddings ranged from 0.260 to 1.685 g per 125 mg slice (3). 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 (4).

You must not throw away food if it has passed its best-before date. Food waste is a growing concern, especially around Christmas time. Food that is thrown away causes problems in tackling hunger crises and landfills. Hence, you should try to keep tabs on the dates of your food and try to prevent it from going to waste. 

If you are in doubt if your Christmas pudding is safe to eat, then you should not eat it.  If the Christmas pudding feels off, 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 you are sure to be safe.

What are the chances that your Christmas pudding is edible long after its best-before date?

If you store your Christmas pudding properly in an airtight container and do not leave your Christmas pudding out of the fridge for more than four hours, your Christmas pudding has probably not spoiled yet. 

Moreover, If there was alcohol in your Christmas pudding, it is most likely to be fine.

 Store-bought Christmas pudding, that is still intact in its packaging is possibly safe as well.

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 Christmas pudding that has surpassed its best-before date is still fresh. 

How long does Christmas pudding last?

Christmas Pudding lasts long after its expiration date. You can expect your Christmas pudding to last months and even years after the best-before date. It may come off as a surprise to you but Christmas pudding has been known to last for over a decade.

 If you store Christmas pudding in the refrigerator, it will last 2-3 months. In the freezer, however, the Christmas pudding lasts for over a year.

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 bind to sugar and alcohol molecules, there is no free water for the development of bacteria.

If the Christmas pudding has alcohol, the Christmas pudding will last for over 2 years. Be sure to assess its condition and heat it to ensure that is free of bacteria. Discard if you spot mold. 

Why is Christmas pudding not susceptible to spoilage?

 You do not need to worry about Christmas pudding spoiling sooner than it should. Christmas pudding counts as a low moisture food with a long shelf-life. Christmas pudding without any alcohol and fresh fruits instead of dried; is susceptible to spoilage. 

Ethanol is well known for its antimycotic effect in foods, particularly bakery products. This effect can be obtained either by adding ethanol directly to the product or by using an encapsulated ethanol pouch. Ethanol has been shown to increase the mold free shelf-life of bread, pasta and buns (5).

In fact, Christmas pudding has been known to last longer than its best-before date owing to the presence of alcohol and low moisture content. 

The moisture that you observe in a Christmas pudding is due to fat while the water molecules are bound to sugar. The moisture is taken up by sugar, making none of it available for bacteria.

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. 

Alcohol never spoils. 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, rum, or whisky in it. 

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 (2).

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 (1).

Other FAQs about Pudding that you may be interested in.

Can you eat Christmas pudding when breastfeeding?

Can you eat Christmas pudding when pregnant?

Can pudding go bad?

How to steam a Christmas pudding in a plastic bowl?

Conclusion 

In this brief guide, we answered the question, can you eat Christmas pudding after the best before date? We discussed if you should eat Christmas pudding after the best before date and some factors to consider before you eat old Christmas pudding.

Citations

  1. Smith, H. V., et al. Cryptosporidium and Giardia as foodborne zoonoses. Veterinary parasitology, 2007, 149, 29-40.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.  
  4. 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.
  5. Spence, Charles. Explaining seasonal patterns of food consumption. Int j gastron food sci, 2021, 24, 100332.