January 20, 2004

Milk It

I bought several gallons of milk in early-mid December from BJ's wholesale because out family goes through milk quickly. Just before Christmas, Maggie expressed her reservations to me about feeding the girls the last of the gallons of milk, which was just at its expiration date. December 20, 2003.

Figuring the milk was still good, I brought it to work. I don't use much milk here, but I figured I wasn't going to throw it out. Every couple of days I used a bit of it. Then, I took number of days off around the holidays and it sat unused. Time has crept on.

Today, after a long weekend, I returned to work and found it still in the fridge. A quart or so is still in there. I was about to pour it out when I noticed the date today. January 20. One month past the expiration date of the milk.

For old time's sake, I took a swig from last year's milk.

It tasted OK enough that I returned it to the fridge. Ryan made an "iffy" sound after sniffing it. Not sure what that means. I'll be using it in my coffee tomorrow.

ADDENDUM: I was feeding my daughter at breakfast the other day, and when I opened the fridg, she asked me if I wanted some egg nog. Before I could answer, she told me it had gone bad. "Why did you asked me if I wanted some when you know it's gone bad?" I asked. "And how do you know it's gone bad... and why is it still in the fridge if it's gone bad?"

She said to me "Mommy says you like bad milk, so she left it in there for you."

I opened the carton and took a whiff. There was about a pint or so left. The horrible smell of the byproducts of lactobacillus eating the egg nod wafted up into my nose. I quickly poured it down the sink, though my daughter protested that I was wasting perfectly good bad dairy products. I had to explain to her: even Daddy has his limits.

Posted by James at January 20, 2004 3:33 PM
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You should usually be able to use milk up to five days after its expiration date. That was about the average when I was living in FL, where maybe the fridges are a degree or two warmer. Fat content may be a factor too.

Once I used it for a week after the expiration date... I thought I was living on the edge.

But a month??

In fact, at least three times in Florida I had milk partially freeze when it had gone really bad. I hadn't done anything to the temperature of the refrigerator, and nothing else in there had frozen. I'd love to know what that was all about.

My mom thinks milk goes bad a few days BEFORE the expiration date. She's never tested this, and I can't dissuade her.

Posted by: julie at January 20, 2004 4:39 PM

The sell by date is absolutely a minimum (unopened, once opened it can easily be contaminated and go bad faster). If the milk doesn't get contaminated it can definately go longer. Which is why it's a sell by date, not an expiration or even a best by date.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at January 20, 2004 4:55 PM

Thank you for explaining that.

Posted by: julie at January 20, 2004 5:12 PM

Bad milk won't kill you, and it is a gradual process. I wouldn't discourage anyone from trying to taste milk day by day and allow it to go bad slowly, just so they know what it tastes like and how long it can take.

Usually, I let my nose decide, and that's a decent measure. but milk is still usable, even if my nose sometimes says it's a little bad.

Maybe this is a leftover from when my mother once made chocolate milk out of milk slightly gone bad. It won't make you ill, and it's still pretty much as good for you as regular milk. Money was tighter for us in those days, but I became pretty good at spotting bad milk because of it.

Funny what you remember from childhood.

Posted by: James at January 20, 2004 5:13 PM

Thanks, Bob. That is an important clarification. And also why I'm willing to consume so many things past the sell by date.

BTW, when I took the swig today, I probably contaminated he milk. All downhill from here.

Posted by: James at January 20, 2004 5:21 PM

My nose must be sensitive... but milk starts to smell gamey to me a day or so before the "sell by" date. I'm not a supertaster, but it starts to taste gamey around the same time.

Whether or not it can make you sick, I ain't drinking something that tastes like that. Yuck.

Posted by: Chuck S. at January 21, 2004 10:27 AM

Try it with an unopened bottle of milk and I'm willing to bet it smells/tastes fine on the sell by date.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at January 21, 2004 12:38 PM

Right now I'm eating my cereals with milk that is 9 days past it's date. The bottle wasn't opened before today though. Still I feel this is a dangerous breakfast, that's why I ended up here, I wanted to get wiser about milk and it's expiration date. The problem I encounter is that I can't tell whether it smells bad or just the same as when it was still ok. Maybe cereal manufacturers can think of another type of cereal. Besides the regular one, another type that offsets the effect of bad milk, to use when your milk is past it's date. Consumers will always have to store the two types.

Posted by: Bill from Flanders at January 24, 2004 5:56 AM

So far, after my second bowl, I'm not nauseous and it tasted just fine.

Conclusion: add a minimum of 10 days to the expiration date for unopened bottles of full cream milk.

Greetings from Belgium.

Posted by: Bill from Flanders at January 24, 2004 6:01 AM

I think milk gose dad in about 3 days after the expiration.

Posted by: mark at February 26, 2004 1:44 PM

It goes Dad!??

I hope you don't mean it has kids!!! Just kidding you, Mark.

Actually, it probably varies based on storage of the milk. Fridge temp varies. Ours here in the office is very cold, and that may give us an advantage.

By now, of course, the milk is long gone.

Posted by: James at February 26, 2004 2:03 PM

If anyone out there wants surety about their bottled bovine beverages, I have the most sensitive nose on the planet and will gladly give your dairy a snif test for a nominal fee.

Posted by: Patti M. at May 3, 2004 4:09 PM

I work for a company that insists on serving milk eleven days past the "sell by date." A fellow employee got sick and today, 5/18/04, a customer noticed that a creamer had gone bad. I keep telling my managers that they should bite the bullet when it comes to serving milk so far beyond its sell by date, which was on May 7th, because they are dealing with the public. Any suggestions or comments ?

Posted by: A.R at May 18, 2004 11:53 PM

Forget the sell-by date. If I'm reading the 2001 food code correctly, an establishment should not be selling any ingredients held for more than 7 days if it is stored under 41 degrees. If it's stored over 41 degrees and under 45, it's only supposed to be held for 4 days.

From what you're telling me, there's a good chance you're employer is in violation of this, unless you're receiving dairy products after the sell-by date, and I'll bet there are regulations against that as well.

Aren't there health inspectors? They are very receptive to details like these. Give your local health department a call.

The FDA 2001 food code:

Posted by: James at May 19, 2004 1:00 AM

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