Turns out Twinkies do not last forever and may produce scientifically confusing mold

Turns out Twinkies do not last forever and may produce scientifically confusing mold
On the other hand, maybe don't try to eat eight year old Twinkies at all.
On the other hand, maybe don’t try to eat eight year old Twinkies at all.
Image: AFP via Getty Images

By Alexis Nedd

The urban legend that Hostess Twinkies last forever if left unopened is one of the more pervasive food myths surrounding preservatives, shelf life, and snacks that might survive the apocalypse. 

It is also patently untrue. While a Twinkie may still be edible a few days (or weeks, if you’re brave) after its shelf life of a month and a half, Twitter user Colin Purrington recently discovered that the golden, cream-filled snack cakes do go bad — real bad. 

Purrington explained in a Twitter thread that he had a box of eight-year-old Twinkies and other Hostess snack cakes hoarded in his basement dating from the brief Twinkie manufacturing shortage in 2012. NPR reports that Purrington attempted to eat the snacks because he was “just so bored.”

When he bit into the first cake in his Twinkie stash, which was old enough to attend third grade, Purrington wrote that it was “chewy, unsweet, and smelled like rotting ginkgo fruit.” 

3. Although I grew up thinking Twinkies would last for years, if not forever, I was wrong. The one I bit into was chewy, unsweet, and smelled like rotting ginkgo fruit. I gagged. I have nobody to blame but myself — the box clearly warned, “Best Used by Nov 26th” (2012). pic.twitter.com/jhYM5yiEDS

— colinpurrington (@colinpurrington) October 4, 2020

The rest of the box was even more disgusting, with one sealed Twinkie “hosting an organism of some sort” and another looking like what would happen if scientists pulled cake out of peat instead of bog bodies. 

5. I promised there was a surprise and this is it: one of the Twinkies had shriveled into a small log, sucking in the plastic like it was vacuum-packed. Is that something a fungus or bacteria does, or is there some abiotic chain-reaction taking place? pic.twitter.com/BuJZb8hFng

— colinpurrington (@colinpurrington) October 4, 2020

Realizing he had a potential fungal discovery on his hands, Purrington sent his rancid snacks to Matt Kasson and Brian Lovett, two mycologists at the West Virginia University in Morgantown. They went to work identifying what happened to Purrington’s Twinkies from the perspective of fungal experts. 

Commence Operation Moldy Twinkie. 

The good news is that Operation Moldy Twinkie was able to identify the spore responsible for Purrington’s spotted Twinkie, the one he assumed was “hosting an organism.” The bad news is that whatever mummified the shriveled Twinkie has so far eluded Kasson and Lovett. 

Though the mycologists were able to get a sample of the shriveled Twinkie’s cake and alarmingly intact cream with a bone marrow tool, they have not been able to identify what fungus exactly ruined the Twinkie or when things started to go south for the little golden log. 

Lovett told NPR that the fungus could be dead, as only live spores would yield new growth in a lab:

“It may be that we don’t have any living spores despite this wonderful, rare event that we’ve witnessed,” Lovett says. “Spores certainly die, and depending on the fungus, they can die very quickly.”

While the mycologists attempt to discover the source of Purrington’s accidental basement Twinkie fungal experiment, he sent them another mystery of similar origins: A box of moldy Ho-Hos that were also in his basement for close to a decade. 

This should go without saying, but if you have any snack cakes in your house that were purchased when President Obama sat in the White House, do not eat them. 

The best case scenario is that they will be useful for science. The worst case scenario is you will ingest fungus even experts cannot identify. Neither of those scenarios will satisfy your Twinkie craving, as Colin Purrington learned the very hard way. 

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