You know, I had always thought that spices should be changed out every year at the least - but when I read your query I did some sleuthing and found this informative website.
They say the following:
"Stored in an airtight container, in a cool, dry place, spices retain their potency longer than you'd think as long as 4 years for whole spices, 2 to 3 years for ground spices, and 1 to 3 years for leafy herbs, depending on the herb."
Spices are to be kept in the dark like you have, in a cool place. But the rule of thumb is to replace them after one year. If you look at them by then they are pretty dried out and have lost a lot of there color, as well as there flavor. (04/18/2007)
As per the McCormick website:
To make sure all your dishes delight friends and family, use this chart to check the freshness of your spices and herbs.
Self Life -
ground spices - 2-3 years
whole spices - 3-4 years
seasoning blends - 1-2 years
herbs - 1-3 years
4 years, except pure vanilla, which lasts indefinitely
The Flavor Experts at McCormick Recommend the Following Tips:
Check to see that the color of your spices and herbs is vibrant. If the color has faded, chances are so has the flavor.
Rub or crush the spice or herb in your hand. If the aroma is weak and flavor is not apparent, it's time to replace it.
Store herbs and spices in a tightly capped container, and keep away from heat, moisture, and direct sunlight. Replace bottle lids tightly immediately after use.
To minimize moisture and caking, use a dry measuring spoon and avoid sprinkling directly into a steaming pot.
Check the freshness date on the bottom or right side of the bottle to help keep track of when it's time to T.O.S.S.
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