A packet of Tic Tacs can be found lurking in many a desk drawer, jacket pocket, or handbag, and for good reason!
These delicious little mints are perfect as a mid-afternoon freshener, especially as they come in those handy flip-top storage boxes.
But do Tic Tacs expire? And can you eat expired Tic Tacs? If kept in a cool, dark place, away from moisture, a packet of Tic Tacs can potentially stay good to use well beyond the expiration date. However, once a packet of Tic Tacs has been opened, or if the packet is not stored correctly, the mints will turn soft and unpalatable.
Found a packet of old Tic Tacs lurking at the back of a cupboard or in a forgotten coat pocket? We’ll figure out if you can eat them safely after they have expired, and how to tell if they are past their best.
What Are Tic Tacs?
Tic Tacs are a form of hard candy, famed for their tiny size and convenient packaging.
Manufactured by Ferrero, an Italian company, these little hard mints each weigh just under 0.5 grams, making them the perfect little sweet to pop in your mouth when you need a refreshing snack.
Originally Tic Tacs were just available in the minty flavor, with the purpose of providing “two hours of minty fresh breath” with just one mint. They are now sold in a range of different varieties such as orange, lime, red berry, and cherry.
Mint Tic Tacs have always been white, but the flavored versions were originally dyed different colors. However, even the flavored versions are now normally white, with different colored packaging to make them easier to identify.
Tic Tacs are sold in transparent plastic boxes with a flip-top hinge lid. This makes them ideal for carrying around on the move, as they can easily be resealed to preserve their freshness.
How Are Tic Tacs Made?
Tic Tacs are a type of flavored hard candy sweet.
Hard candy is the name used for a type of sweet made by heating sugar syrup, which is then infused with colors and flavorings. This sugar syrup is poured into molds to cool and is then formed into the desired shape.
As with most hard candy recipes, Tic Tacs contain a huge amount of sugar and fructose, as well as maltodextrin, a sugar substitute.
A Tic Tac consists of around 90% sugar with the remaining 10% made up of flavoring and coloring, and there is a sugar-free version of the minty Tic Tac also available.
As with most sweets, Tic Tacs are not a particularly healthy option, but their tiny size makes them easy to consume in moderation. The mint flavors contain just 1.9 calories per sweet — that is very little for two hours of fresh breath!
However, how many of us can stop at just one Tic Tac?
Interestingly enough, there is also some controversy over the sugar content of Tic Tacs. In the United States, the packaging lists the sugar content as 0 grams, but how can that be since these sweets are 90% sugar?
Each Tic Tac weighs 0.49 grams, and the FDA permits products that contain less than half a gram of sugar to be labeled as zero sugar.
So, because of their small size, a weird labeling anomaly means you may mistake these sweets as sugar-free!
Do Tic Tacs Expire?
Tic Tacs have an impressively long shelf life, but they will not last forever! In their sealed plastic container, Tic Tacs will stay fresh and perfectly fine to eat for a long period of time.
If you look carefully, your Tic Tacs will be marked with a “Best Before” date.
This is a guarantee from the manufacturers that, if eaten before this date, the sweets will be in perfect condition. After this date, they may still be edible, but the quality may have deteriorated.
But is it safe to eat food after the best-before date?
This comes down to your own personal judgment and the type of food. Sweets that are past their best-before date may be perfectly fine, or they could have deteriorated to the point where they are inedible.
One piece of good news is that best-before dates are used for foods that will not be too harmful if they have started to go bad.
It is important not to get the best-before date confused with the other date commonly referred to, the “Use By” date. This is used on foods that can cause poisoning when expired, such as meats and fish.
Food that has gone past the use-by date must never be consumed.
The ingredients used to make Tic Tacks are very stable, and the secret to their longevity is the high amount of sugar. Sugar is a natural preservative, and you’d be hard pushed to find a bag of sugar that has gone bad!
The fact that Tic Tacs contain very little moisture also means that it will take them a long time to deteriorate.
If your Tic Tacs are in their original packaging, they will last until at least the “Best Before” date. Manufacturers normally err on the side of caution with the best-before date so that you will eat your sweets while they are in peak condition.
This means that many foods will still be edible even after the best-before date has passed!
Can You Eat Expired Tic Tacs?
You will find a best-by date on your packet of Tic Tacs, but if they have been stored correctly they can last for much longer than this. However, just how long will depend on a few factors.
An unopened packet of Tic Tacs will last for longer than one that you opened and forgot about. These little sweets are tightly sealed in their plastic boxes, protected against humidity and air.
Once a box of Tic Tacs has been opened, the hard candies inside are exposed to air and moisture. This will cause them to start to deteriorate, and they should be eaten within a week or two.
Tic Tacs that have been stored in a cool, dry place will last much longer than those exposed to warmth and air. So if you find a packet of expired Tic Tacs that have been sat on a sunny windowsill, it might be a good idea to get rid of them!
The good news is that it is very unlikely that expired Tic Tacs will go bad, but they may deteriorate in terms of flavor and texture.
So, if you accidentally ate a handful of Tic Tacs that are way beyond their best-before date, there is no need to panic! They might not have tasted the best, but you shouldn’t suffer any side effects from eating them.
What Do Expired Tic Tacs Taste Like?
If you eat an expired Tic Tac that is past its best, you will be able to tell pretty much straight away. This is not because the flavor changes — in fact, an ancient Tic Tac will taste nearly as vibrant as one that is freshly out of the factory!
The difference lies in the texture of expired Tic Tacs compared to fresh ones.
Tic Tacs are adored for their crispy freshness, with a smooth outer coating that crunches slightly as you bite into it.
This texture will not last forever, and over time they go from crisp and crunchy to soft and mushy. Externally they may still look the same, but bite into one and you’ll notice that the satisfying crunch has gone!
If a packet of Tic Tacs has never been opened and has been stored in a cool dark place, it may take many years or even decades for this to happen.
Warmth, light, moisture, and air are the enemies of a fresh Tic Tac, turning the texture from crunchy and fresh to mushy and unpalatable!
So, once you’ve opened a packet of Tic Tacs, you will have exposed them to all the things that can cause them to start deteriorating.
Keep the packet lid tightly sealed and store them in a cool dark place, and they should be good to eat for at least a couple of weeks.
How To Tell If Tic Tacs Have Gone Bad
If you’ve found an open packet of Tic Tacs in your car glovebox or desk drawer, you may be wondering if they are still OK to eat.
Unless they have been contaminated (more on that later), then the only way to tell is to pop one into your mouth and try it. If the flavor and texture are the same as when the packet was first opened, they are perfectly safe to eat.
But what about this contamination?
As we said before, Tic Tacs are loaded with sugar, which is a natural preservative. However, if they get wet or are contaminated with other damp foodstuffs, this sugar turns from a preservative into a super-host for bacteria!
Luckily, if this happens it will be immediately obvious that the Tic Tacs are not safe to eat. They will be discolored, soft, and may even be contaminated with mold.
Any Tic Tacs that don’t look like their original color should be immediately discarded and never consumed.