Expiration dates are meant to inform consumers about the safety and quality of the product. Milkcan easily go bad. But through expiry dates, consumers can know when they should drink their dairy product.

Nothing hurts a milk lover than having to throw milk because it has gone bad. While it’s easy to know spoilt milk, it’s sometimes difficult to know if it’s safe to drink it when it’s beyond the expiry date. How long will milk remain safe after expiration?

Understand the labeling of your milk packaging

It’s important to understand the terms manufacturers use. You might be eliminating your milk way too soon. It’s usually a personal decision regarding whether milk is safe past its expiry date or whether it should be thrown away after few days of being open. It’s easy for consumers to discard safe-to-drink milk because of misunderstanding the terms labeled on the packaging. Is there a difference between sell by, best if used by, freeze by, and expires on?‘Best if used by’strictly refers to the quality of the product. You can still drink it, only that the quality won’t be as high as if you had drunk it before the mentioned date. ‘Expires on’means the day the milk begins to go bad. It may not be safe to use the product after that date. ‘Sell by’informs the seller when the item should be out of the shelves. By then, it should be already bought by the customer or thrown away. Often sell by and use by are used as marketing terms. It helps customers know how fresh the product is and not the precise date the milk will get spoilt.

Are expiry dates for all milk similar?

Don’t expect the milk you bought on the same date to have the same shelf life. Different factors make expiration dates vary. It depends on the type of milk you’re buying, storage requirements, and packaging style. Raw or unpasteurized versions have higher spoilage rates because of not having preservatives.They easily go bad because of the quick growth of bacteria.

How long can milk last past the expiration date?

All unopened milk takes4-7days before going bad past expiration. Unopened with reduced-fat and skim milk can last seven days. Unopened non-fat and lactose-free takes 7-10 days.

What will happen when you drink expired milk?

Drinking expired milk may not be as bad as you imagine. Probably you craved cold milk the previous night and served yourself a glass only to learn later it was past the expiration date. You shouldn’t throw it away. Neither should you call for an emergency team fearing for your safety. What you should do is carefully look at the labels again. If it’s written sell by or use by, it simply refers to the quality and not the deterioration date. Drinking spoilt milk may cause bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, and other digestive issues. If milk is stored poorly, bad microorganisms will multiply to cause unpleasant results like food poisoning. A small sip of milk that is not fresh is unlikely to hurt you. However, expect to experience digestive problems if you take it in large amounts. The effects may last 12 to 24 hours. You can manage the symptoms by rehydrating yourself with sugary fluids or electrolytes. But if the effects remain persistent, seek medical help.

What are the tips for not going past the expiry date?

Always check the expiration date

While at the store, always pick the milk with the most extended expiration date. It reflects as the freshest among them all. Even if you’re planning to drink it soonest, picking the one with the longest time before expiring will saveyou from getting past the expiration date.

Buy the right amount

Most people prefer bulk shopping. While that maybe cheaper and convenient, it may not be wise. If you must do mass buying, ensure it’s only for two weeks and not more.You may buy many packets of milk targeting to save time and money. Yet, after a while, all your milk gets spoilt, and you end up spending extra money buying another stock.

Store properly

It’s one thing for your milk to get spoilt because it’s past the expiration date, but it’s another case when your milk goes bad even before the expiry date reaches. How you store is important, especially if it’s raw milk. Freezing is the best way to avoid milk spoilage. If you choose to refrigerate it, ensure you place it in the coldest parts to keep your milk fresh for a long. The right temperature is 32 to 40 degrees F. For bottled milk, always ensure the lid is tightly screwed to avoid premature spoilage. Also, your milk should not be exposed to light to save it from losing vitamins and minerals.

Use leftover milk soonest

If you’re approaching the ‘best bydate and still have agallon of milk that won’t be over anytime soon, it’ll be wise to get more creative with it. There are many ways of using leftover milk. You can add to soups, sweeten your sandwiches, make homemade yogurt or cheese, or treat yourself with facial milk. Don’t allow your milk to go bad, yet you can make it useful.

Drink it

Why did you buy milk if you have no intention of drinking it?You better finish what you started. Ensure you drink your milk as you intended to do to avoid throwing it. The secret is buying your favorite milk, one which you can never get bored with. Go for what you like, whether it’s cow milk, canned, powdered, flavored, or non-animal milk like almond, soy, and coconut. The aim is to buy what you’re sure you’ll enjoy drinking.

How do you know milk is spoilt?

You’ll always know spoilt milk. The smell, taste, and change in texture are the indicators of a deteriorated milk. Spoilt milk has an unpleasant sour odor and taste, slightly yellow, and the texture is lumpy.


Passing the expiration date does not necessarily mean the milk is not safe for consumption. But it doesn’t mean you should drink milk that is not safe. To avoid drinking expired milk, always confirm the sell-by date, store your milk properly, smell the milk to identify any unpleasant smell, check the milk’s texture, and if all these signs reflect freshness,your milk is safe to drink. Before you forget, why don’t you go now to check the best-by date to ensure you’re not past the date?


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Nataly Komova

Nutritionist. Bluffton University, MS In today's world, people's eating and exercise patterns have changed, and it is often lifestyle that is the cause of many diet-related illnesses. I believe that each of us is unique – what works for one does not help another. What is more, it can even be harmful. I am interested in food psychology, which studies a person's relationship with their body and food, explains our choices and desires for specific products, the difficulty of maintaining optimal body weight, as well as the influence of various internal and external factors on appetite. I'm also an avid vintage car collector, and currently, I'm working on my 1993 W124 Mercedes. You may have stumbled upon articles I have been featured in, for example, in Cosmopolitan, Elle, Grazia, Women's Health, The Guardian, and others.