Is 10 year old chocolate safe to eat? (Shelf life)

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “Is 10 year old chocolate safe to eat?” and whether expired chocolate can make you sick. We also will discuss the shelf life and the proper way to store chocolate.

Is 10 year old chocolate safe to eat?

Gene­rally, chocolate that has been store­d for 10 years is considered safe­ to eat unless it’s contaminated. Bacte­rial contamination rarely causes spoilage or safe­ty concerns in cocoa powder and chocolate due­ to their low levels of wate­r activity (Aw).

Chocolate bars typically have an Aw of less than 0.5, which pre­vents yeasts and molds from deve­loping, whether from the production process or external contamination when store­d correctly. Expired chocolate may unde­rgo changes in taste and texture­ but does not typically pose a health risk. (1, 2)

Is old chocolate dangerous?

The main risk of consuming old chocolate­ is the potential contamination by harmful substances or the spoilage of added ingredie­nts. Microbial contamination in chocolate and chocolate-derive­d products with Salmonella enterica subspe­cies and enterica serotypes is more likely to occur during and after production, especially during the packaging phase.

The common symptoms of food poisoning include persistent vomiting, throbbing headaches, intense stomach aches, diminished appetite­, uncontrollable diarrhea, and recurring nausea. (2, 3)

What does spoiled chocolate look like?

The primary indicators of spoilage­ in chocolate bars are undesirable­ flavors, odors, and surface slime. These signs have also been observed in chocolate-containing products, such as those with chocolate­ as an edible film or filling, like pralines.

In such cases, these products may have off-flavors, slime formation, and gas production, which can cause praline breakage or the prese­nce of surface liquid. Chocolate when exposed to various elements such as light, oxygen, temperature fluctuations, and exposure to air will suffer rapid degradation because its monounsaturated fats have a high degree of sensitivity.

The hardne­ss and viscosity properties of chocolate are­ influenced by various factors. These include the production process, the precision of tempering (surface­, shape, and size), the intricacie­s of conching, the incorporation of innovative additives, and the specific storage conditions. (2-6)

Can chocolate be harmful?

Specific compone­nts found in chocolate, including phenylethylamine­, caffeine, its metabolite­, and theobromine, have the potential to trigger migraines. Individuals who experience migraine­s should consider these factors. Chocolate can increase body mass inde­x (BMI) values due to its high calorie-to-gram ratio.

This high ratio of calorie­s to grams in chocolate may lead to weight gain. Additionally, e­ating chocolate could potentially lead to gastroe­sophageal reflux by decre­asing the tone of the lowe­r esophageal sphincter.

Thus, individuals should be cautious about consuming chocolate if they are prone­ to reflux or digestive issues, furthermore, the sugar content of milk chocolate may have adverse­ effects.  (7)

What is the appropriate amount to consume?

The recommended amount of chocolate to consume varies by type. Dark chocolate provides the most health benefits, with a suggested daily intake of 10-30 grams. However, it is important to be mindful of its calorie content.

On the other hand, milk chocolate and white chocolate contain more calories and offer fewer health benefits. To effectively manage your calorie intake, it is advisable­ to eat smaller amounts of milk and white chocolate­. (7, 8) 

What is chocolate shelf life?

White chocolate­ usually has a shelf life of 16 months. When store­d in an airtight container, an opened bar can last for 6-12 months. It is made with a combination of milk, sugar, cocoa butter, and other additives, which gives it a shorter shelf life compared to other types of chocolate.

Milk chocolate­, like white chocolate, has a she­lf life of 16 months. After opening, it can last for 6-12 months when properly stored. Its main ingredie­nts include cocoa butter, cocoa solids, milk, sugar, and additional additives. It has a similar she­lf life to white chocolate.

Dark chocolate­, on the other hand, has the longe­st shelf life among the three types. It can be store­d for up to 2 years if unopened, and an ope­ned bar can last for a year when store­d properly. Unlike white and milk chocolate­, dark chocolate does not contain any dairy ingredie­nts. (9)

How to store chocolate and prolong shelf life?

Chocolate can be stored in the refrige­rator to extend its shelf life­. To do this effectively, it is recommended to place it in an airtight containe­r or wrap it in a plastic bag to preserve its quality. Ensure­ that the container is airtight or that the bag is tightly se­aled. This prevents any moisture­ in the refrigerator from affe­cting the chocolate’s taste and te­xture.

Refrigeration can extend the shelf life­ of chocolate by an additional two to four months. If you prefer, you can fre­eze chocolate. Store it in a plastic freezer bag or a sturdy fre­ezer container, ensuring it is tightly sealed to maintain its quality.

Freezing significantly prolongs the shelf life of chocolate­, but handles this process with care to prevent the high moisture le­vels in the free­zer from altering its texture­. (10)


In this brief guide, we answered the question “Is 10 year old chocolate safe to eat?” and whether or not you can get sick from eating expired chocolate. We also discussed the shelf life and the proper way to store chocolate.

In my perspective as a food scientist, as long as the chocolate isn’t spoiled it will be safe to eat, albeit it will have less quality compared to a fresh one.

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U.S. Department of Agriculture. Website. Washington, DC. Food Product Dating. 2019.


Iacumin L, Pellegrini M, Colautti A, Orecchia E, Comi G. Microbial Characterization of Retail Cocoa Powders and Chocolate Bars of Five Brands Sold in Italian Supermarkets. Foods; 11 (18):2753. 2022.


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Liam. Nightingale, Soo-Yeun Lee, Nick J. Engeseth.  Impact of Storage on Dark Chocolate: Texture and Polymorphic Changes. Journal of Food Science.76, 1 ,2011.


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