A word of caution about vacuum sealing the brown sugar

Letter from Chris B

I started using my Food Saver vacuum and about everything I bought was vacuumed! Longer storage or so I thought until someone on a blog mentioned the dangers of storing brown sugar and granola in a vacuum sealed state. I had my things in half-gallon canning jars. Panic set in. I found a few websites stating that same thing. So warn folks.

I wrote to the Food Saver folks, and their reply was that their storage in bags was only for short-term storage. They didn’t address the long-term use…or the brown sugar use.

I did wonder how anyone would know that brown sugar had bacteria…botulism in it in the first place. Did someone store it and then eat it and get sick? Anyway I thought better to error on the sae side. When the SHTF we will have enough to deal with without adding sickness.

“Word of caution, it’s considered unsafe to vacuum-seal brown sugar because it can develop bacteria growth. (Source for the following quote: http://www.yourfamilyark.org/food-storage/danger-of-botulism) “Granola, nuts, brown sugar, and dehydrated fruits and vegetables (unless they are dry enough to snap inside and out) should not be stored in reduced oxygen packaging (such as #10 cans or pouches with an oxygen absorber).”

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of TheSurvivalistBlog.net. He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Well I have learned brown sugar will not seal as tight as other foods in food saver bags. Plus I kept it in the original bags. I only did it to keep ants and bugs out of it. I check it regularly.
    Do you know what kind of bacteria it is. Is it mold? Can you visibly tell if it has bacteria?
    Would sure like to know.
    But thanks for the info.
    But again common sense has to play into storage of food.

    • Homeinsteader says:

      Interesting…bacteria must have oxygen to grow. Dark brown sugar contains more molasses than light brown. If you leave dark brown in original plastic, vacuum seal it in standard bagging, then put it in mylar with 1500 to 2000 cc Oxygen Absorbers…must do more research!

      • In fact, many bacteria does not need air to grow. Many bacteria, often the most dangerous, are anaerobic…that is, they actually require a lack of oxygen. This is why the Clostridium botulinum bacterium, the one that causes botulism, thrives in an acidic and canned (i.e. anaerobic) environment. However, keep in mind that high sugar content tends to lend itself more to mold (fungal) growth than bacterial. Better safe than sorry.

      • Not all Bacteria live in O2…Anaerobic bacteria are a common cause of infections, some of which can be serious and life-threatening. Because anaerobes are the predominant components of the skin’s and mucous membranes normal flora, they are a common cause infections of endogenous origin. I am not sure of all the answers, but simple removing O2 is not going to kill or provent ALL Bacteria.

      • Some bacteria need oxygen to grow (aerobic) and some don’t (anaerobic) – The botulism bacterium is anaerobic and cannot grow in oxygen. It gets “oxidized”.

      • Anaerobic bacteria such as clostridium botulinum not only survive without oxygen but germinate, grow and produce the toxin that causes botulism. That’s why there are so many warnings about storing garlic cloves in oil. Aerobic bacteria need oxygen to live.


      • Homeinsteader says:

        Wow! Good info; thanks to all!

    • I have been hunting down information on storage of brown sugar.
      Now I know this is hermetically sealed– but moist is moist— no matter what you put brown sugar in.
      I will search some more seems this maybe one of those judgement calls as in when do you absolutely have to clean out the refrigerator.
      I myself am going to continue to store brown sugar the way I have been. As one person said here they kept theirs in the regular bag and in a regular zip bag for ages as most of us have.
      But I will continue to look for a really good qualified answer and report back.

    • Okay how is the best way to store brown sugar????

      • Homeinsteader says:

        As white sugar and just add your molasses, as much as you want, as needed (apparently). Works for me.

  2. I will buy brown sugar on sale, for use around the house, and vacuum seal it, in the original package until I needed it. Our issue here is not the moisture (which is what I think is causing the problem) its the lack of it. My brown sugar would become a brick of brown sugar.

    I have since discovered a ready source of Domino’s granulated brown sugar, which we prefer. My longer term storage is in #10 cans.

  3. Thanks for that info. I had never heard that about brown sugar, or about the dehydrated fruits, veggies and granola.

  4. chris, thank you for the info. i’ve already sealed at least 20 pounds of brown sugar in mylar bags. how can you tell if it’s bad?

  5. My wife, when she has a question like this, goes to the source. The LDS cannery, for example, will put you in touch with their food safety consultants. My wife has talked with them more than once about issues such as storage life and safety. She has also spent time on the phone with the owners of more than one food company regarding their products. If someone lower in the chain doesn’t have an answer she just pushes through until she finds someone who does.

  6. Homeinsteader says:

    I clicked into “yourfamilyark”. WHAT???

    Quote: Use proper techniques when canning foods at home to ensure all bacteria is destroyed. Sterilize home-canned foods by pressure cooking at 250° for 30 minutes. End quote.

    I know of very few foods that need only 30 minutes and most don’t need 250 deg. F. MOST meats will need 240 deg. F (10 lbs. pressure) for 75 minutes in pints, 90 minutes in quarts. Less than that, and you WILL be growing botulism. IF you are at higher altitudes or live in high humidity areas, you MAY need to adjust your temperature up, but check your guidelines…

    Get a Ball Blue Book of Canning (the ‘Bible’ of canning) and check it before processing any food.

    Who wrote this? Mercy. I hope not too many people listen to it.

  7. CDC page http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/botulism/

    As I recall, maybe wrong, brown sugar is sugar with molasses added. I have always refigerated jars of molasses, so I suspect the moisture in brown sugar to be the problem.

  8. Make your brown sugar as you need it. 1 cup sugar add 1 tbs molasses stir with fork till combined. Brown sugar.

    • Mother Earth says:

      Azyogi, great information! I will no longer plan long term storage of brown sugar.

    • Homeinsteader says:

      Agreed, y’all! Molasses IS one of those things I think we all need to keep in our stores; I happen to be lucky enough to get really good molasses from Arkansas!

    • I do this all the time and prefer dark brown so always add more molasses. YUM And I don’t end up with 3 partially used containers of different sugars. Can mix up what is needed and be done.

  9. GeorgeisLearning says:

    thanks for that tip. I haven’t stored any yet but for sure good to know.

  10. Folks, there’s no need to store brown sugar. Just store regular sugar and jars of molasses. When you need some brown sugar, mix one cup regular sugar and one (for light brown sugar) or two (for dark brown sugar) tablespoons of molasses (if you need more or less, just increase or reduce the amounts, using the same proportions). Toss with a fork. There will come a time in the tossing process where the molasses clumps up – just keep mixing. In just a few minutes, you’ll have brown sugar! I don’t even buy it anymore! 🙂

  11. Sugar is anti-bacterial, so I am totally confused now. Does anyone have citations for these statements?

  12. I’m just an old sharecropper’s son, but it is my understanding that warmth, moisture and oxygen are needed for bacterial growth. By removing any one of these, growth should be at least retarded. We need an expert now, don’t we? A curious mind wants to know . . .

    • Sorry, I don’t want to sound like a know it all…but in fact, I do have some knowledge on the subject. A simple Google search can help out…but depending on the type of bacteria, you may not need warmth or oxygen. Psychrotrophic bacteria thrive in very cold temperatures (sometimes barely above freezing) and obligate anaerobes actually require a lack of oxygen. Again, I’m not trying to be a know it all, but you can never be too safe in terms of food storage.

      • Homeinsteader says:

        Oh, my goodness! Just when I was start to feel safe about eating what’s in the pantry….. LOL!!

  13. Hunker-Down says:

    Chris B.,

    Thanks for the alert!
    I found additional information at:

    We vacuumed brown sugar in glass jars using a FoodSaver last year.
    Since we cant boil it for 20 minutes, I guess we need to throw it away. DANG!

    • Homeinsteader says:

      You CAN boil it! 20 minutes? Just add more water. Put your sugar in a pot, add water to cover, bring to boil, stirring often. What you will have is a brown sugar SYRUP, but it’s still food! You’ll find a way to use it. You can also repackage it by canning – check your Ball Blue Book and treat as any other “syrup”. It will be good for quite some time.

      If you just can’t do this, then, feed it to your compost pile!

    • No, you could bake it in something. That would get higher temps than boiling anyway. Make some cookies! 🙂

  14. Why save brown sugar when all you need is molasses? You can make your own brown sugar the same way they do at the factory. Simply take a bowl of sugar, add a couple table spoons of molasses and use a hand mixer. You’ll probably need to finish it up with a wooden spoon, but in ten minutes you’ll have the same product. All you need to do is adjust the color by how much molasses you add.

  15. MountainSurvivor says:

    It is always better to speak up whether right or wrong so I say that you did the right thing, Chris B. I suspect that because Molasses is one of the things that is used to make brown sugar, Molasses can get downright moldy, may be the reason that it can be, if it is true about the Botulinum toxin producing in it, dangerous. I have made my own brown sugar but I used old Hershey cocoa containers and a sandwich baggie under the lids only to make a tighter seal. I need further information so I am going to go and take a little look-see. Thanks for the alert!

    • Mold will not produce the Botulinum toxin, only Clostridium botulinum will…that said, many molds can produce their own toxins.

  16. MountainSurvivor says:

    You might want to look at http://www.survival-center.com/foodfaq/ff9-swee.htm and at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clostridium_botulinum as quoted, “Honey, corn syrup, and other sweeteners may contain spores but the spores cannot grow in a highly concentrated sugar solution; however, when a sweetener is diluted in the low oxygen, low acid digestive system of an infant, the spores can grow and produce toxin. As soon as infants begin eating solid food, the digestive juices become too acidic for the bacterium to grow,” unquote. I’ve always dropped a brown sugar bag inside a large ziploc baggie and never gotten sick from it. Sometimes, it would sit in the bag for more than six months before it was used to cook with or be eaten in it’s delicious uncooked state. I’m not afraid to eat the blackest molasses on the market, straight out of the jar, unless it gets a mold. Without Molassess and white sugar, and my own homemade brown sugar, my griddle, corn pone and other cakes would be dead in the water.

    • Homeinsteader says:

      Neither honey nor molasses ever go “bad”; if they crystallize, simply heat them in a hot water bath or microwave them in glass jars (as long as you have power to do so, of course!). But babies under 12 months should never be given honey (I’m not sure about the molasses, so I’d avoid it, too!).

  17. Interesting they stated that their bags were of only short tem storage ……………. Would be interesting to hear their reply when asked that if their product is for short term storage only ………why should anyone buy or need their product .

  18. I have not become involved in canning, but I have always felt that leaving the brown sugar in its original container is all I have ever needed to do. Looking at the older packages, they look no different today than when I first bought them. Maybe I need to take the oldest one and use it making some Toll House Cookies.

  19. Well, I’ve sent a question about this to C and H sugar. I’ll let the pack know what I hear back.

  20. To those who suggest mixing your own brown sugar, how would storing molasses be any safer? It’s the molasses that makes the brown sugar supposedly unsafe (otherwise white sugar would be unsafe too.) So that means storing molasses is unsafe too.

  21. Homeinsteader says:

    Storing molasses is NOT unsafe; no more than storing honey. Why? Still looking for the answer, just being honest about it.

    Haven’t found that answer yet, but, here is some good info from Natural News on the many mineral elements found in UNSULPHURED Black Strap Molasses:


    I am not saying that honey and unsulphured black strap molasses have exactly the same properties (I doubt that), but I do know that honey never goes bad. It may crystallize, but it certainly is safe to eat – just heat it up until the crystals blend back into the honey. Am still looking at molasses info, but may have to come back to it later….

  22. Info on shelf life of molasses (and sources) here: http://shelflifeadvice.com/cooking-ingredients/liquid/molasses

  23. Homeinsteader says:

    Thanks, Pet1!

  24. Any food with moisture content must be kept at least refrigerated if packaged in a vacuum pack or else anaerobic bacteria will form. There are others ways to control it such as pickling, basically controlling the ph. Basically, if you have moisture you have to watch out for bacteria there are aerobic (air) and anaerobic (non air), so it will require more than vac pac to protect from all bacteria.

  25. Basically long term stored non homemade brown sugar is fine, IF used only in cooking- ie cookies, cakes, spread over sweet potatoes, glaze over ham, etc? Just don’t eat it raw !
    Discovering the Wolf Pack is a wealth of info ! Thank you all !

  26. Kitty Sanchez says:

    So I’m about to throw out about 20 lbs of brown sugar and just store the next batch in jars without sealing them up. Is that acceptable?

  27. Petticoat Prepper says:

    Hi all,

    Debbie above is now ‘Petticoat Prepper’

    I just got off the phone with Connie Hunter at C and H sugar. According to her, vacuum sealing brown sugar and then storing in a cool, dark place is perfect. Unless you add something to it, it should be fine.

    She also said that granulated sugar should be stored in an air tight container too. As it will draw moisture and become a big ‘cube’ at which point you need to toss it.

    So those of us who’ve stored our brown sugar in a foodsaver type bag system are fine.

  28. Homeinsteader says:

    Thanks for follow up, PP; however, I do not agree on throwing out granulated sugar because it becomes a lump. Our ancestors managed just fine on sugar that always started as a lump, and they broke off or shaved off what they needed. You can either do the same with the “lump”, or, cook it with water into a syrup, store in glass mason jars in the ‘fridge and use within a few days, or, process it like any other syrup and can it – it will remain “good” for quite some time.

    Again, thanks for your diligence in seeking answers!

  29. I store white sugar and molasses separate and make brown sugar as needed. I found an old jar of Grandmother’s unsulphured molasses in the back of my cupboard some years back, a couple years after the “best by date”. I called Grandmother’s Molasses, they told me, unopened, it it had an indefinite shelf life. The following is from their website. http://www.bgfoods.com/int_faq.asp

    “Q. What is the shelf life after best used by date?

    A. Once a product is opened and exposed to light, contaminants in the air, and temperature changes we cannot be absolutely certain for how long a product would be of quality as when it was first filled.

    There is no exact answer to this question, too many variables.
    Once opened considering where and how long a product has been exposed to light, heat, various room temperatures as well as the actual refrigeration temperature or storage conditions and when it is stored would determine how long it could still be safe to use.

    But again even if you never opened a product it will automatically age.

    (Provided the packaging has not been compromised). It does not mean you cannot use the product just that it is not at the same quality as when filled.

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