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Everyone has heard of the myth that Twinkies could probably survive a nuclear winter if it ever came to it. The beloved Hostess snacks are rumored to never go bad, given that they do not break down like other food items. However, an NPR report has shown that this isn’t correct as they will get moldy, they just decompose differently than regular food – and this process has been studied by fungi scientists.

The experiment of the Twinkies’ decomposition started by accident back in 2012 with nature photographer Colin Purrington first discovering that the Hostess Brand was facing bankruptcy. Afraid that he’d never see Twinkies on store shelves ever again, he bought a box. It then proceeded to stay down in his basement for years until he decided earlier this year to satisfy a Twinkie craving. But to his surprise, when he opened up the 8-year-old package he found all the Twinkies to have expired.

Like many others, Purrington figured that Twinkies would last forever. But when he took a bite out of one of the Twinkies he was disappointed to bite into a pastry that he could only describe as tasting like an “old sock.” Then when he picked out one of the other ones, he noted that it had a dark spot on it. One had turned gray, and another one had become all shriveled up.

The photographer then did what he does best and took pictures of his rotten Twinkies, posting them online. He also sent the Twinkies to Brian Lovett and Matt Kasson, two scientists at West Virginia University in Morgantown specializing in the study of fungi. In the past, the scientists have studied the growth of fungi on foods that use preservatives. They have studied such foods as Peeps, and with the Twinkies, the scientists believe that fungal growth was what decayed the Twinkies. But they just didn’t know which kind.

The Twinkie that had been shriveled within its wrapper was so hard that the scientists had to use a bone marrow biopsy tool in order to cut through it. It was only the outer layer that was difficult to penetrate – the middle center with the cream had survived. This pointed to the fact that the fungi must’ve been more attracted to the cake portion instead of the creamy center.

After taking samples of the dark spot on one of the Twinkies, there was the presence of Cladosporium, a common airborne mold that is found indoors. The scientists have been unable to grab a living sample of the mold from the Twinkie, but the researchers are not giving up. There will be more tests conducted on the mummified Twinkie done in the future. Time will only tell what other interesting findings they will discover. But at least we know that Twinkies will not survive an apocalypse.

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