Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Foods that do not Spoil
Name: gerri
Status: other
Grade: other
Location: CA
Date: May 2007

Are there any foods, besdies honey, that do not spoil?

Foods that "do not spoil" has to have some qualifications. In particular there is a different "list" if you allow the food to be sterilized in the container and the container remains unopened.

What is the definition of "spoil"? It could mean "no growth of microbes", or it could mean loss of flavor and/or desirable texture (that is some chemical change). How long is the test run -- days, months, years,...? Has the container been opened? You may have noted on many food labels: "Refrigerate after opening". Is the container opened/closed?

For the present purpose assume the food is open to the air at about 25 C., has not been inoculated, and "not spoil" means one year with no microbial growth apparent. Some candidates include:

Many dry spices last indefinitely, although they may lose some of their "strength". Peanut butter lasts a long time without growing microbes.

Dark chocolate is very resistant to microbial growth.

Pickles and other "brined" foods such as fish have a long lifetime; however, they may fall into the category of "Refrigerate after opening." Lard and many cooking oils have a long "shelf life". Alcoholic beverages having a large alcohol content can last for many years.

This is just a short list. Look around your pantry or a grocery store and you will find an amazingly large number of foods that "don't spoil".

Vince Calder

Click here to return to the General Topics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory