Expiration date on spices?

changelingJanuary 28, 2008

When you buy a jar of spice, for instance I just purchased a jar of "Spice Islands" Chile powder and one of ground cumin seed, they don't have expiration dates on them, just numbers on the bottom such as "SL12C" which is on the ground cumin seed.

Is there some way to tell when this was bottled from that number?

Reason: I can write down the date I purchased the bottle but what if it was packaged by Columbus 2 weeks after he landed!! How do I know? There must be some way to decipher those numbers, anyone know?

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I can't help with that code, but I can tell you that if a dried herb or spice is more than about a year old, it isn't worth keeping. The larger the particles, the longer the shelf-life. So a whole nutmeg can keep for years, a powder can lose its colour and flavour quite quickly. Why not write the date of purchase on the label - at least it's some sort of guide!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 5:55PM
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This might help.

Here is a link that might be useful: Spice Advice

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 6:03PM
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CA Kate

Try this site... does take a bite of time to load.

Here is a link that might be useful: McCormack Spice Checker

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 8:47PM
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I checked all my spices a couple months ago and had to throw away 90% of them (some were WAY old!). I'd say if they still have a "code" on them, pitch them. Nowadays the spice jars have a date stamped on them.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 9:35PM
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One of the best tricks is to buy your spices from a high quality source where you KNOW they're very fresh when you get them. Not the supermarket--because you're right--they could have been on the shelves for years before you even take them home. Try buying from a good spice importer like Penzey's, or a high turnover spice market in your area.

I've totally stopped buying any spices at the grocery store. There is such a HUGE difference when you buy fresh (I order from Penzey's), and a good spice importer offers so much more selection than the grocery stores do.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 9:14AM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I will smell and taste spices that I think are old and if they
seem ok I'll continue to use them. I might not use them in special dishes but tossed in weekday meals they are usually fine.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 10:15AM
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I'm with bumblebeez. I do date my jars when I open them, and I do throw out stuff from stores that I haven't been to in years. But esp for stuff I rarely use and don't feel like replacing every time I need a quarter teaspoon every year at Christmas I'll let my nose and mouth be the judge. Afterall, if your nose and mouth can't tell the difference.... then is there really a problem?

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 10:36AM
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call the company ... ask them to reveal the code

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 11:16AM
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changeling, try getting Penzeys - they're in Rockville now, or from a health food store. You can then get quantities small enough to replenish often.

Spice Island? I have no idea and I know that was your question, but fenworth's caveat is a pretty good bottom line. Expiration dates are guides.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 12:54PM
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I also get much of my stuff from Penzey's, I get those teeny little jars and then I don't feel so badly when I toss them out and buy new stuff. Things like cinnamon or peppercorns that I use a lot of I can buy in bags and reuse my glass jars to store them in, and I save money that way too.

I've had my secretaries tell me that Penzey's is "too expensive" but when I was buying ground cardamon I got a jar at Penzey's for $2.49 when the one at the local Evil Empire (Walmart) was over $12!


    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 1:08PM
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Annie, I know that people think Penzey's or Spice House are expensive..but you are right they aren't! I get the small jars as samplers..if it's a spice I know I'll use alot, I get the glass..then on my next order I buy a 4oz refill bag.
I go through alot of Cumin, Smoked Paprika, Onion powder, Korjenti cinnamon, Galena Street Rib Rub. However I only buy a small jar of cayenne because most recipes call for pinches or a small teaspoons worth..
Compare the prices to grocery store or even Walmart.. Even the cost of shipping for me...I'm ahead of the game, and know the turn around at Penzey's is quick for storage.

Although I have to agree with Changeling..in that how do any of us know how long a spice has been in storage..How long the whole spice was around before it became ground and packaged and put on a shelf..
I guess the key is to trust your supplier..~supplier..LOL..yep Penzey's definately supports a fix...tee hee

I was making my Smokey BBQ rub yesterday and instead of chili powder (preblended) I use Ancho chili ground for the chili powder called for in the recipe and then toss in half the amount called for in Mexican Oregano. I bought that bag from Penzey's probably 4 months ago..and every time I open the zip top..I'm fragranced with it's wonderful pungent scent.
Quality is often found in the sniffer. :o)

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 1:55PM
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CA Kate

Ummm... I guess I forgot to say that McCormick's also makes Spice Islands.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 3:22PM
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I guess Penzeys is th way o go then!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 3:30PM
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