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I bought a box of soy lecithin at a store yesterday, only to discover that it is past its "use by"-date. The date was a month ago. Now I am wondering whether to take the hassle of returning it to the store or just to go on using it. It is sealed, so I don't want to open it before I know something about the usability of the powder.

Thus, the question is how quickly lecithin degrades?

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I was unable to find a definitive answer to this question, but several different sources and manufacturers of soy lecithin similarly indicated that the shelf life is at least 24 months; some provided temperature guidelines. From this, one can conclude that at reasonable storage temperatures, the decrease in effectiveness is likely to be quite slow. The "best used by" date is likely to be very conservative, and it is quite likely you will not have any problems using the slightly older product, especially if it sat in an air conditioned store for most of its life. –  SAJ14SAJ Aug 29 '13 at 11:53
    
Most products like this will have a manufacturing stamp on them that will tell the manufacturer the batch number and what facility it was produced at. You could call the manufacturer and ask them when it was actually made, then, knowing the conditions you found it in the store (AC, no AC, in Sun, near generator exhaust, etc.) you can make a best guess based on SAJ14SAJ's tip above. Personally, I have switched to Sunflower Lecithin, having found a cheap source, since I have a slight soy sensitivity, and I'd rather be able to eat tofu once in a while. Weird how sunflowers keep coming up for me. –  NOTjust -- user4304 Sep 28 '13 at 16:13
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The FDA defines a “Use-By” date as the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product. After the "Use-By" date the product loses potency and/or freshness. "Use-by” dates usually refer to best quality and are not safety dates.

FDA Product Dating

The product is likely safe to use after this date, however, it will be less effective or fresh. As these dates are set by the manufacturer and vary wildly by manufacturer. Soy lecithin degrades very slowly as noted by SAJ14SAJ. You likely have a good amount of time (up to 24 months from date of manufacture) before the product is degraded sufficiently to require recipe adjustments.

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