Condimentary, my dear Watson!
November 14, 2008 11:25 AM   Subscribe

How long do condiment packets last? Recently I have opened duck sauce packets that had thickened to silly putty consistency and ketchup that had turned almost black. Also, are they dangerous to eat, or just gross?
posted by snofoam to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Probably just gross. The amount of vinegar, salt and sugar (not to mention artificial preservatives) will almost certainly mean they'll be technically edible in 2000 years. The change in colour is just a result of oxidation, and the thickening is most likely water loss.

But why on earth?
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:31 AM on November 14, 2008


A bottle of Heinz ketchup I checked has roughly a 1-yr exp date, but the motto in my family is "when in doubt, throw it out." Presumably the packets were free? I don't like to dump good food, but what you've described doesn't sound particularly enticing.
posted by woodway at 11:33 AM on November 14, 2008


But if they went bad after a certain amount of time, they would put an expiration date on it! Wouldn't they?
posted by jabberjaw at 11:46 AM on November 14, 2008


Well, there's 2 ways of going bad, food safety and food quality. From a food safety standpoint, the packets will last forever until the adhesives sealing them shut degrade enough that bacteria can get in. Food quality is often caused by chemical changes and can happen much quicker, as you saw (and as I have experienced with hot mustard packets). It isn't hazardous to your health, but it's definitely unpalatable.

jabberjaw - There's probably an expiration date on the box of packets the restaurant buys. There's no need to stamp individual packets since they aren't meant for individual sale and you're not really meant to keep them around for years. Stamping the individual packets with expiration dates would add a nontrivial cost to production that doesn't really serve a purpose.
posted by TungstenChef at 11:58 AM on November 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, to clarify, I have no intention of eating what is in these packets, I was just curious.
posted by snofoam at 12:03 PM on November 14, 2008


Some info is available here and here. The second link indicates that whether the packet has been creased enough to possibly damage the plastic liner inside the foil wrap could affect the longevity of the condiment.
posted by vytae at 12:04 PM on November 14, 2008


What you want is the Table Of Condiments That Periodically Go Bad!

It says:

ketchup - 5 months (packet vs bottle unspecified)

duck sauce - 4-5 months

My vote is that if ketchup is black, just go for mustard or mayo that day for your lunch moisturizing agent. A ketchup emergency is still a pretty small emergency, all things considered.
posted by Askr at 12:48 PM on November 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


If you end decinding to toss them, perhaps consider making a donation to The Condiment Packet Museum, instead.
posted by Exchequer at 1:07 PM on November 14, 2008


Look at it this way. If you were in a diner and the ketchup in the bottle was black, would you add it to your burger?
posted by essexjan at 4:16 PM on November 14, 2008


I don't really know...but if you do end up eating them, could you just update us? Now I'm curious...
posted by junipero at 8:01 PM on November 14, 2008


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