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Understanding The Average Shelf Life Of Cookies And When Not To Eat Them

June 4, 2010

Whether it’s chocolate chip, oatmeal or peanut butter, almost everybody likes a fresh-baked cookie. Some indulge a few times a month or maybe once a year. However, there are some popular favorites may only be available by Internet or phone order only. The flip side of having treats delivered right to your door is that unlike buying goodies over the counter where you can see it being made fresh, some online cookies may not taste like they came right out of the oven. They may be hard, have no aroma or taste and bring a little stomach discomfort if eaten.

You’re at a gathering where some unusual cookies are served and you fall in love instantly. The hostess says that she normally doesn’t buy online cookies, or any food for that matter but just couldn’t resist the taste. You get the information and find the company is a fairly new business with mixed customer reviews. How can you be sure that you are getting a fresh, homemade cookie and not a lot of everything else? Here are a couple of things to find out about cookie shelf life before giving up your credit card number.

Two major factors influence cookie shelf life. The first are preservatives and other ingredients used that affect the cookies’ moisture level. High-fructose corn syrup and pre-gelatinized starch retain moisture longer in food. Other ingredients used to stretch the life of any food are vegetable shortening, modified food starch, guar gum and lecithin. The second factor is packaging. Small time operators may use a plastic wrap that can be bought at any supermarket to cover cookies. They seal the wrap by using a sticker that lists either the ingredients or their contact information. This is not bad for cookies that will be eaten in the next couple of days. For online cookies to retain their moisture and have a longer shelf life, a special industrial wrapping paper that is heat-sealed by machine is needed. This is especially true during slow periods when a company may not move many units.

While the idea of a sweet treat containing butter, flour, natural flavors and sugar is mouth-watering, sometimes using at least one preservative is necessary. For the most part, preservatives are tasteless and not visible, though some swear it takes something away from the homemade goodness. A cookie made in a regular kitchen can remain fresh for up to two weeks if it’s refrigerated within three days of baking. Most manufacturing plants estimate cookies shelf life up to nine months and sometimes a full year, depending on the amount of preservatives and packaging used.

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