Does Granulated Sugar Go Bad? Researcher Breaks Down Sweet Truth

In every home, the types of food items that you buy are dependent on more than just taste, but also on how long they can last. The more durable a food item is, the easier it is for you to buy the product in bulk, saving costs along the way. When it comes to granulated sugar, there are a lot of speculations about whether it can get spoilt after a while.

Does granulated sugar go bad? Granulated sugar does not go bad because sugar does not support microbial growth, which is responsible for food going bad. Your major concern with old sugar is that lumps might develop due to moisture.

Based on a research paper on Utah State University’s site, the shelf life of commercial sugar is indefinite because of its resistance to the spread of microbes. To ensure that the quality of sugar is regulated properly, a lot of sugar brands have an expiry date of about 2 years. Also, you can maintain granulated sugar by storing it properly, away from heat, moisture, and strong smells.

How Can You Tell If Granulated Sugar Is Bad?

Granulated sugar does not go bad, but it can get contaminated by some external substances. You can tell if sugar is unclean because some of these contaminants such as mold and bugs are often visible.

The reason sugar does not go bad is that it does not support microbial growth. Regular foods get spoilt when microbes grow within them, but since microbes can’t grow in sugar, there is zero chance of sugar going bad.

Since going “bad” is not a concern when it comes to granulated sugar, then you should be more focused on other issues that might cause sugar to be harmful. The most direct way for sugar to become unsafe is if unhealthy substances get transferred into the sugar pack.

Among the common contaminants of granulated sugar, you pack might be exposed to mold, dust, or bugs and their eggs. Proper storage of sugar is important to keep it safe from insects or any unwanted form of organic growth.

It is easy for sugar to become impure if it is either left fully open or not closed tightly enough. Due to its taste, sugar is very appealing to insects, and they will always try to get in. If there is even the smallest of spaces in your sugar contains, insects can crawl in, bringing in germs and laying eggs.

In most cases, you can tell if sugar has been contaminated simply by looking at it. Granulated sugar is usually white, and contaminants like eggs, mold, and insects often have other distinct colors, making them easy to spot when you investigate your sugar pack.

Can You Eat Expired Granulated Sugar?

While it is not ideal, you can eat expired granulated sugar. Technically, granulated sugar will never go bad even though it often has an expiry date. The date is necessary to maintain the quality of the product.

When you purchase granulated sugar that has been produced commercially, you might notice that the product’s labeling includes an expiry date. Considering the presence of an expiry date on your sugar pack, it is normal to assume that the sugar will go bad once the expiry date has been exceeded, making it inedible.

Unlike many other commercially produced foods that come with expiry dates, the case of sugar is a bit different. As mentioned above, sugar does not allow microbial growth, meaning it cannot go bad. The quality of sugar, however, can be reduced if it has been directly contaminated with external substances.

So, you might be wondering, if sugar cannot get spoilt, “why is there an expiry date on every pack of granulated sugar that I purchase at the supermarket?” The most direct answer is quality control.

Quality control in this case refers to the procedure of ensuring that manufactured products comply with a certain level of excellence. By placing this date on every pack of granulated sugar out there, it is easy for manufacturers to maintain a certain quality level that is safe for all consumers.

Quality control is important because while sugar does not expressly get spoilt, it can indeed get contaminated. The longer you keep your sugar, the more likely it is for water to get into the pack. This, unfortunately, can lead to the formation of solid lumps in your pack of sugar.

While lumpy sugar is still safe to use, it defeats the whole purpose of buying granulated sugar in the first place. Lumpy sugar cannot be accurately measured when scooped up in a spoon.

Apart from sugar lumps caused by the presence of moisture in your sugar pack, you need to also look out for actual dirt that might get into your granulated sugar. The longer you keep your sugar, the more likely it is for such pollution to occur.

Most sugar brands have an expiry date that is around two to five years after the date of production. This time range is often used because if your sugar lasts that long, it would have gotten polluted by contaminants, making it less than ideal.

So, if you have a pack of sugar that has gone beyond its expiry date but has not been contaminated, you can still use it. However, your major concern with aged, granulated sugar will be the possible lumps formed.

Unless you are in a dire state with no options, you should err on the side of caution and purchase a new pack of sugar rather than use an expired one.

Look below to learn more from a firsthand account of using “expired” sugar, and more information on its actual shelf-life.

Ways To Use Granular Sugar

Documented WaysPercentages Gathered Roughly
Using it in place of regular sugar18%
Using it in emergencies18%
Using syrup along with it for bees20%
Using it to bake certain dishes18%
Bee Farm usage26%
All information has been derived from relevant forums.

Can You Get Sick From Eating Old Granulated Sugar?

No, you cannot get sick from eating old, granulated sugar, if it has not been directly contaminated. If your granulated sugar contains impurities such as mold, you can get sick if you eat it.

When you eat food that has gone bad, you can experience some unpleasant symptoms that range from mild to severe. The main reason that food becomes bad after a while is that microbes grow within food over time.

With its incredible ability to stop the growth of microbes, granulated sugar is perfect for long-term storage. This means that even if sugar gets old, you can still eat it without any worries apart from having to tackle lumps that might have formed over time.

However, there are exceptions to the longevity of sugar, and they are mostly centered on whether sugar is exposed to contaminants that make it impure. Depending on the nature of the impurity, eating unclean sugar can make you sick.

It is possible to get sick if you eat sugar that has been exposed to mold, experiencing symptoms like nausea and vomiting. However, this possibility is slim if you have a strong immune system.

Does Granulated Sugar Have A Smell?

Usually, granulated sugar does not have a smell because pure sugar is odorless. It is possible for granulated sugar to have a scent if it absorbs the smell of other food items in your kitchen.

The main ingredient in sugar – sucrose – does not have a smell, meaning pure granulated sugar should be odorless. If your sugar has a distinct or unpleasant smell, then there might be an issue with the product, likely because it has been contaminated.

If your granulated sugar has not been contaminated but still has a smell, then it might have picked up a scent from elsewhere. Sugar absorbs smells easily, making it for sugar to smell like nearby food items.

How Do You Store Granulated Sugar Long-Term?

For long-term storage, you should keep granulated sugar in a cool place, away from all moisture. If granulated sugar comes in contact with water, it can form unpleasant lumps.

Sugar is one of the few food-related products that are exceptionally reliable when it comes to how long they can remain edible. Due to how sugar resists the growth of microbes, a pack of sugar can theoretically last for an indefinite number of days.

The longevity of sugar is important, particularly in households where shopping is not often done at frequent intervals. Some people would rather buy food items in bulk, reducing how often they need to make shopping trips. Sugar is one such food item that you can buy in large volumes since it can last long if handled properly.

However, no situation is perfect, and there are some other ways that your pack of granulated sugar can become less than optimal. As explored earlier, your first concern with granulated sugar is keeping all forms of moisture away from the product.

The most straightforward way to keep moisture away from sugar is by storing it in an airtight container. You can simply use glass bottles, canning jars, or Tupperware, if the container that you choose will prevent moisture from getting to your sugar.

After getting the right container, your next step to maintaining moisture-free sugar is storing the container in a dry environment. This means that you should not keep it in an enclosed compartment since it is easy for enclosures to accumulate damp especially due to factors like changes in temperature.

A shelf in your kitchen can be a good spot to store the sugar container, far away from any point where splashing water might get. Areas with low humidity levels are perfect for storage. If you want to go the extra mile, you can purchase a dehumidifier to help you reduce the humidity in a room, making food storage a lot easier. Smaller dehumidifiers like those from COLAZE are the perfect choice. With drying coverage for 600 square footage, you can be sure your storage or cupboard area will be dry in the most humid of areas. Click here for more information!

Or if running a dehumidifier around the clock isn’t feasible, another option can be Food Grade Silica packets, such as those available from Wisedry, with the unique ability to change color within their packets after reaching maximum absorption. Learn more about it here!

The quality of sugar can also be affected by the temperature at which it is stored. If sugar is kept in a hot place, it can begin to melt and get extra sticky. Hence, sugar should be stored in an environment that is cool. For an optimal condition, the temperature of sugar should not be allowed to exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius).

On the other hand, you should not let the sugar get too cold either, because this can cause the absorption of moisture from the atmosphere. This means that you should not put sugar in a fridge either, as this will encourage the development of lumps.

Finally, you should keep granulated sugar away from substances that smell strongly. Sugar can absorb smells, even if the sugar is held properly in a container. To avoid bad-smelling sugar, you should keep it in an odor-free area.

How Do You Fix Hardened Granulated Sugar?

You can fix hardened granulated sugar by preheating it for a short while, as this will soften the sugar. Then, you can use a fork to properly crush the sugar, returning it to its proper granulated form.

In some of the earlier headings, we mentioned that, routinely, sugar does not go bad if there is no direct contamination. This means that sugar is notable for its longevity since it can be stored for many years if the storage conditions are ideal.

However, if you do not stick to the right steps when storing sugar, moisture might get into the sugar’s container, and this can cause lumps to form. The main issue with lumps of sugar is that they are often hard and cannot be scooped up and measured easily with a spoon.

If you are experiencing a lumpy situation with your granulated sugar, there are some steps to take that will return the sugar back to optimal form. 

First, you need to expose the sugar to some heat. This is a delicate process that should be done with a lot of care so as not to exceed sugar’s melting point, which is between 363-367 degrees Fahrenheit. The best way to properly warm up sugar is to microwave it for just a few seconds.

After the sugar has been warmed up and softened, then you can use a fork to break down the lumps. You should bear in mind that without needing to heat them first, you can crush lumps of hardened sugar with a fork.

The reason for the heat is to soften the sugar initially, making the crushing process easier. If you are worried about overheating the sugar or do not have access to controlled heat, you can simply go ahead to crush the lumps.

Recent Posts