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Sell by date on milk


ellencho
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Up until recently, I thought the sell-by date on milk containers meant how long the milk would last until it went bad. But apparently, most milk processing places claim that their milk will be good up until a week after that date. If that is so, then how come almost every time, without fail, the day after the sell by date our milk has always spoiled?

Is it improper storage on the part of the supermarket? This always seems to occur no matter where my family or I am living (PA, NY, MA, CT). I will add however, that our higher fat dairy products, such as sour cream, heavy cream and buttermilk always last longer than the sell by date.

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I do know that in NYC milk has a sooner sell by date than in NJ...some containers have both dates

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I've found that the date on milk means it'll be good until that date, and then it's anybody's guess. It has a lot to do with the temperature at which it's been stored. Also, it's been my experience that milk with higher fat content tends to last longer than lowfat or skim.

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I believe it also has much to do with how often it is removed from the 'fridge and for how long. I remember reading somewhere that 1 hour out of the fridge reduces its shelf life by a whole day - don't know if this is true but I think it is probably partially true.

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Ditto on the skim milk spoiling quicker. Why is that? It would seem that the higher fat content would go rancid first. Or is the fat a natural preservative?

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I typically throw out any milk left by the sell by date because in my experience it does spoil by then or shortly thereafter. Temperature does matter. Many refrigeratures are set around 38-40 degrees F, which is a little warm for long-term milk storage. Also, milk in plastic containers gets exposure to light, which affects how long the milk will last.

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This is so funny to me... I'm paranoid and I won't drink it after the date that's been stamped on the carton, but I will cook with it. My husband, however, will drink and use milk that's about 3-5 days beyond that date. He thinks of it more as a suggestion.

Unless old milk causes laziness, I'm pretty sure he's ok. :laugh:

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I think it depends on a lot of things, but especially the temperature at which its stored and what its been subjected to before it ever reaches the shelves. Here (Istanbul) really fresh milk is not the norm, most people using the UHT (Ultra High Temperature) flash-pasteurized milk that can stay unrefrigerated for a year or so. But once you've opened it you have to use it quickly. In my new neighborhood, there's a dairy outlet that sells "daily" milk. I keep my fridge cold, but I have to use it within 3 days or it's gone. If I forget, I'm reminded by the immediate curdling as it hits the morning coffee...

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This is really a pet peeve with my wife on this. She things that because it was written/stamp on the carton that she has to throw it out on that date, regardless of the real condition. "I rather be safe than sorry" view on this.

Me, I say if it is still good why not use it. Date is only a suggestion because they couldn't possibly know the condition you are going to keep the milk at. "why waste food if you don't have to" view on this.

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Store the milk in the coldest part of the fridge, having used a thermometer to determine where that is, and that should not be the shelves inside the door of the fridge, which is usually the warmest part.

I go by the sniff-and-sip test, using the sell-by date as just guideline. I find the milk is usually good for at least a week after the sell-by date.

If it does go sour, it's not spoiled for baking and cooking. Ever hear of sour or clabbered milk? That's milk that's gone sour, and it's great in pancakes, yeast breads, muffins, biscuits, scones, waffles, and so on.

Another thing I do is, if I sense the milk is about to go sour and we can't possibly drink it all, I freeze batches for later use in baking or cooking. This is what I do is we are about to go an vacation and there's milk we cannot finish.

My mother-in-law (a chemist, as she always points out) extends the life of the milk thus: if she senses it is getting close to going sour, she zaps it in the microwave to just short of boiling and curdling, brings it back to room temp, and refrigerates it again. She says killing off much of the bacteria this way extends the life of the milk. I have tried this and it seems to work.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Rather that create a new thread, I thought I'd post this here:

I just pulled a whole chicken out of my freezer to roast later this week. I noticed that it has a "Sell By" date of October 2004. I remember buying this chicken about a month ago. It definitely has NOT been in my freezer for a year or more. I think I bought it frozen, but I can't remember for sure.

So, should I just chuck it? It's just a run-of-the-mill Tyson roaster I got for .78 cents a pound, so I'm not worried about the money, but I'd rather save a trip to the grocery store if it's probably OK.

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I routinely consume milk well past the "sell by" date. My sniffer is my primary guide. And even if the milk has gone sour, its not going to kill you.

Some observations though... higher fat milk tends to keep longer than the skim variety; milk in glass containers lasts longer than paper containers; ultra-pasteurizing vs. pasteurizing seems to make little difference once it's open; homogenized milk goes sour more quickly than non-homogenized; if you have a roommate who constantly drinks from the carton/bottle, it goes sour quicker :raz: .

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I routinely consume milk well past the "sell by" date.  My sniffer is my primary guide.  And even if the milk has gone sour, its not going to kill you. 

Some observations though... higher fat milk tends to keep longer than the skim variety; milk in glass containers lasts longer than paper containers; ultra-pasteurizing vs. pasteurizing seems to make little difference once it's open; homogenized milk goes sour more quickly than non-homogenized; if you have a roommate who constantly drinks from the carton/bottle, it goes sour quicker  :raz: .

YMMV. I always had problems keeping milk in glass bottles good: see this thread.

MelissaH

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Yea.. I like to live on the wild side, I push the limits as far as possible on the "do not sell after" date.

I also like to down a couple of cold ones and then go wild by tearing tags off of my mattress and pillows... :wink:

Really... I'll usually drink milk a couple of days after the do not sell date, then use it for cooking. Ever since we had a baby, I've become much more conservative when it comes to freshness and quality.

"Live every moment as if your hair were on fire" Zen Proverb

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