Flour is a must-have for any well-stocked pantry. Many of us tend to store the flour or buy it without paying much attention to the expiration date.
Even worse, some people even store flour for a very long time without keeping track of its freshness. Let’s find out if flour can go bad and what happens if you use it.
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Does Flour Go Bad?
Flour is a very versatile ingredient, whether we use it for sauces, baking, or many other delicious dishes. This is why you should know if it can go bad and what needs to be done in this case.
As with any other perishable ingredient, flour does go bad, but not as quickly as other products. In some cases, it can remain fresh long after its expiration date, provided that you stored it in safe conditions.
How Long Does Flour Take to Go Bad?
Flour’s shelf life is highly dependent on how you store it and what type of flour you use.
Most types of flours take between 3-8 months until they begin to spoil if they are kept at room temperature. This is often more than their expiration date listed on the packaging, but flour can last less than that if you do not store it in proper conditions.
Which Variety of Flour Has the Longest Preservation?
There are different types of flour that depend on what the flour is made of and its level of processing.
All-purpose white flour is usually longer lasting than the whole wheat type. In other words, white flour is more refined, so the grains used to make it are stripped of germs and bran, leaving only what is known as the starchy endosperm.
On the other hand, whole wheat flour contains all three components: the bran, germ, and the starchy endosperm.
While the bran and germ make whole-wheat flour healthier, these also make it more vulnerable to spoilage. The two components are rich in oils and the deterioration of these compounds is the result of exposure to moisture, light, and air, leading to an unpleasant taste and smell.
Another type is gluten-free flour, such as coconut or almond flour. These are also high in fats (oils), so they can get spoiled much quicker than all-purpose white flour. Flour alternatives that are made of nuts or roots also have a higher content of moisture, making them prone to molds.
As a consequence, white flour has the longest life compared to other types due to its low-fat content. Gluten-free and whole-wheat flours go bad quicker.
You must throw away flour if you notice any unpleasant smells, mold, or discoloration. To keep it fresh for longer, you must ensure that the package is sealed; you can also refrigerate or freeze flour to keep it for a longer time.
In short, this is how long different types of flour can last when properly stored. For more accurate shelf life, you can read the label on each product’s packaging.
What Health Hazards Does Spoiled Flour Have?
Researchers have not been able to identify any specific health hazards associated with ingesting spoiled flour. When it goes bad, its molecular makeup changes.
This means that your baked goods or meals that include bad flour will have an unpleasant taste or odor. If eaten in small amounts, it is highly unlikely to affect your health.
A particular dangerous experience is to ingest moldy flour. Similar to other products, flour can be a nourishing environment for both harmless and dangerous molds.
Some harmless types of mold, for instance, can be found on blue cheese. Other molds are not safe for consumption because they produce harmful chemicals. These can lead to sickness and result in diarrhea and vomiting.
The harmful chemicals (mycotoxins) are also proved to encourage the development of serious health conditions, including liver diseases, cancer, and more. This depends on the amount of molds ingested and how long the body is exposed to mycotoxins.
As a result, it is always a wise decision to throw away any flour with a foul taste or bad smell, mold signs, or any other atypical sign.
How to Tell If Flour Is Bad?
Most types of flours have no smell, while some alternatives, such as nut-based ones have a sweet, nut-like odor. When flour is exposed to moisture and air, the molecular changes lead to oxidation.
The first sign of rancid flour is its bad smell – most spoiled flour has a sour, musty smell, while the texture becomes rubbery and similar to play-doh.
In addition to this, improper storage conditions can lead to flour beetles. These tiny insects are also known as weevils. These are a type of bug but they are completely harmless for our body.
However, remove the bugs as soon as you notice them in order to prevent flour spoilage. One way to kill the insects is to freeze the flour for several days. After this, the flour is safe to use.
To check if your flour has bugs, put the flour in a clear container or a glass. Press the flour down to make it compact and leave it in a bright area for a couple of hours. The weevils, either the bug or its larva, will break the smooth, pressed-down surface of the flour.
You can remove the bugs by sifting your flour thoroughly after freezing and leaving it to reach room temperature. Of course, it would be even better to toss out the flour and buy a fresh pack. Storing it in proper conditions will ensure that you avoid bug infestation in the first place.
Symptoms After Consuming Spoiled Flour
As previously discussed, eating spoiled flour in a very small amount is unlikely to lead to any symptoms. However, prolonged intake can lead to vomiting, upset stomach, and diarrhea.
Continuous consumption of spoiled or moldy flour comes with significant health risks that can lead to cancer, kidney and liver damage, and even suppression of the immune system and reproductive disorders. These are the result of the mycotoxins found in spoiled foods.
How to Preserve Flour
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) considers flour as one of the shelf-stable foods. This means that you can safely store it at room temperature and use it by the expiration date.
However, improper conditions can lead to flour spoilage much quicker or, alternatively, suitable conditions can prolong its life considerably.
Flour should never be left exposed to the environment. You must keep it in an airtight container placed in a cool, dry place. If you want to store flour for a longer time, you can place it in the fridge or even freeze it.
For example, all-purpose white flour can last up to 8 months when it is on the shelf in an airtight container. Refrigerating it can extend its life to 1 year, while frozen flour can be kept for up to 2 years.
If you decide to put flour in the fridge, you must be cautious when it comes to moisture exposure because this encourages mold growth. This is why it is recommended to seal the flour inside a jar, plastic bag, or a food container with an airtight lid.
Another word of caution is necessary when using refrigerated or frozen flour. In both cases, you need to leave the flour outside until it reaches room temperature before using it. Otherwise, the flour will form lumps.
In general, all recipes require ingredients to be used at room temperature when combining them. However, there are a few exceptions, such as when making whipping cream.
Tips to Avoid Flour Waste
In order to diminish the chances of spoiling flour, you should follow a few tips. For instance, if you do not use flour on a regular basis, you can choose to buy smaller packs.
Always buy ingredients just to cover your cooking needs as this diminishes the waste and you save more money.
Planning ahead or making a shopping list can help you determine how much flour you need based on the recipes you want to prepare.
In addition to this, if you still end up with too much flour, you can always refrigerate or freeze it and use it at another time. In general, refrigerated flour can last up to 50% longer compared to flour kept at room temperature.
If you have a dark, cool, and dry pantry, you can safely store your flour there in order to save space in your fridge and freezer, using it for more important foods, such as meat and vegetables. As suggested above, regardless of the storage location, the flour should always be kept in an airtight container.
Any spoiled foods should be avoided at all costs because these can have detrimental health effects. This is not only relevant for cooked foods, but also ingredients.
When it comes to flour, a key ingredient in many recipes, this is even more important since it can spoil the entire dish. You can avoid foodborne diseases only by thoroughly investigating the state of your food and ingredients before eating or using them.
Mind how you store your food, especially by keeping it away from moisture and light.