Is It Safe To Eat Expired Oats (And When You Should Throw Them Out)?

Did you know that oats, the ideal breakfast food, can expire? We of course know that some foods, like milk and meat, go bad pretty quickly, and it's essential to pay attention to the expiration dates for these items — but others are considered shelf stable and last so long in the pantry, we may forget they even expire at all. Make no mistake — it may take months (or years) rather than days, but shelf stable foods like pasta, crackers, and oats do expire and are no longer safe to eat at a certain point.

There are a few factors that can speed up their spoilage. If you let any heat, air, or liquid get in the container, the oats can become moldy or stale much more quickly — so your best bet is to keep them sealed in an air-tight container in the cupboard. However, if stored properly, commercially processed oats can last for up to two years, according to Healthline

But what happens if you eat them after two years? And when are they past the point of no return?

Oats may be safe past their expiration date under certain conditions

If you just remembered you have a box of oats in your pantry a month after its expiration date, it's still okay to eat — sometimes. Throw it out right away if you see any signs of moisture or mold, which can make you sick or lead to an allergic reaction if consumed (via Food Network). And of course, if you see any bugs or discoloration, get rid of your oats, as these are signs of contamination. 

However, mold-free oats that have retained their color may be safe to eat past their expiration date. Keep in mind that they may taste or smell a little different — the fats in oats may start smelling sour after a while, and they may turn stale. You should also pay more attention to the expiration dates on certain types of oats, such as flavored, unsteamed, and unstabilized boxes, which aren't meant to last forever. And if you want to extend the shelf life of your unflavored, commercially processed oats as much as possible, the type of container matters. Try using one made out of glass, stainless steel, or ceramic. 

But if you can't stand the taste or smell of expired oats? They can also be used to make homemade face masks, scrubs, and bath bombs — so feel free to get creative if you aren't ready to throw yours out just yet.