Twinkies Don't Stay Fresh As Long As You Think

There's a common urban legend that Twinkies never go bad. They outlast canned foods and dry goods, the legend goes, Twinkies will always be ready to eat. They could be a bomb shelter staple or a post-Zombie-apocalypse dessert option. As myth-busting site Snopes describes, legend has it that Twinkies can stay edible for decades because they aren't truly food but "a cake-like offering" made from bizarre artificial ingredients. People have claimed that Twinkies can still be eaten after 50 or even 100 years. 

Bad news: Twinkies definitely go bad. Originally, according to NPR's The Salt, Twinkies had a shelf life of just 26 days. When the beloved snack returned to shelves in 2013, after Hostess's 2012 bankruptcy, it was with an extended shelf life of 45 days. So no, Twinkies may not last forever, but over six weeks of freshness is still remarkable for a baked good. It's fifteen times longer than the shelf life of the average sponge cake, which, according to Delishably, is three days at room temperature. 

So what happens if you eat a Twinkie after the expiration date?

For Twinkies, the expiration date isn't a hard and fast rule. They won't be as fresh as they would be within the first forty-five days, but if you wait a little longer to eat them, they're not going to kill you. They just won't taste as good. "I've got some that are 8 years old. They are hard but they are not spoiled," said Steve Ettlinger, author of the book TwinkiesDeconstructed (via Southern California Public Radio).

This isn't a license to go around eating decades-old Twinkies. According to a Penn State course blog, the legend of Twinkie longevity began with a teacher who said a Twinkie sat in a classroom for 30 years and still "looked" edible. But even in that case, it turned "a gray diminished color." Similarly, a school in Maine is in possession of a Twinkie from 1976 (via ABC News). Its glory days are definitely behind it — it's lost its golden color, and it's a little bit dusty, but it's definitely recognizable as a Twinkie. 

Basically, don't go around eating your grandmother's heirloom mid-century Twinkies. Twinkies last remarkably long — you're welcome to take the expiration date as more of a suggestion than a rule — but they don't last forever.