Written through Kelli McGrane, MS, RD ~ above September 27, 2019 — medically reviewed by Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, RDN (Ice)

According to the national Science foundation (NSF), 78% of consumers report throwing out milk and other dairy assets once the day on the label has actually passed (1).

Yet, the date on your milk doesn’t necessarily show that it’s no much longer safe to drink. In fact, many milks have the right to be consumed several days previous the day printed top top the label.

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This short article explains what the day on your milk way and just how long milk is safe to drink after ~ the published date.

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Confusion over day labeling on foods accounts for practically 20% of consumer food garbage in the United states (2).

This is largely due to the fact that the Food and also Drug administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate the date labeling that food products, v the exception of infant formula (2, 3).

Some states regulate if and how expiration dates on milk need to be labeled, yet these regulation differ between states (4).

This method you may see several types of days on her milk carton — no one of which show food safety and security (3):

Best if provided by. This day indicates once to consume the milk by for the best quality. Sell by. This date can assist stores through inventory management, as it tells when to sell the milk by come ensure the best quality. Use by. This date is the last day you deserve to expect the product to be at height quality.

Therefore, the printed date can provide you an idea of when the top quality will start to decline. However, it doesn’t mean that her milk will expire and be unsafe come drink instantly after the date.


The FDA doesn’t need manufacturers to publish an expiration date on milk. Instead, you’ll regularly see a “use by” or “sell by” date, i beg your pardon is a recommendation about quality, no necessarily safety.

In the joined States, many milk purchased native the grocery store has actually been pasteurized (5).

Pasteurization is a process that entails heating milk to destroy potentially harmful bacteria, including E. Coli, Listeria, and also Salmonella. By law this, the shelf life that milk is prolonged by 2–3 weeks (6, 7).

However, pasteurization can’t kill all the bacteria, and also those that continue to be will proceed to grow, eventually causing the milk to spoil (8).

One study discovered that the temperature in your refrigerator greatly affects exactly how long her milk stays great past the provided date. Merely by reducing the frozen refrigerator temperature indigenous 43°F (6°C) come 39°F (4°C), the shelf life was lengthened by 9 work (8).

While there room no set recommendations, many research suggests that as long as it’s been stored properly, unopened milk normally stays an excellent for 5–7 days previous its provided date, while opened up milk lasts at least 2–3 days past this day (3, 8, 9).

Unless milk is shelf-stable, it should never be left the end at room temperature for an ext than 2 hours, as this rises your risk of foodborne illness (3).

In contrast, life milk has actually not been pasteurized and has a much shorter shelf life. Drinking this form may additionally increase your hazard of foodborne illness (10, 11).

Finally, yes unrefrigerated milk, likewise called shelf-stable or aseptic milk, i m sorry is developed using ultra-heat therapy (UHT). UHT is similar to pasteurization but uses higher heat, make unopened milk commodities safe to save at room temperature (12).

Unopened, UHT milk can normally last 2–4 weeks past the printed day if save on computer in a cool, dried pantry, and also up to 1–2 month in the fridge. However, as soon as opened, UHT milk need to be stored in the fridge and consumed within 7–10 job (9).

Of course, nevertheless of the listed date, it’s constantly important to examine your milk first for any kind of signs the spoilage, such together a sour smell or change in texture.

Ways to make her milk last longer

Milk may be great for several days after ~ the sell-by or best-by date. However, you deserve to still end up with spoiled milk if you nothing store and also handle that properly.

Here room a few tips on exactly how to keep your milk indigenous spoiling quickly (13):

unless the shelf-stable, place milk in the fridge as shortly as possible after purchasekeep her refrigerator temperature between 38°F (3°C) and 40°F (4°C) save milk ~ above an interior shelf in her fridge rather than ~ above a shelf in the doorafter use, always tightly seal and also quickly return the carton to the fridge

While milk deserve to be frozen for up to 3 months, freezing and also subsequent thawing can result in undesirable transforms in texture and also color. The said, it will be safe to drink (14).


Even ~ opening, most milk is for sure to drink for numerous days past the use-by or sell-by date. Appropriate storage and handling may assist it stay fresh and also safe for longer. However, it’s always important to check for signs of spoilage before drinking.

As the date on her milk doesn’t always indicate safety, the best means to tell if milk is okay to drink is by utilizing your senses.

One the the an initial signs the your milk has expired is a readjust in smell.

Spoiled milk has a unique sour odor, i m sorry is due to lactic acid created by bacteria. Other indications of spoilage encompass a slightly yellow color and lumpy texture (15).


Signs that your milk has actually spoiled and also may not be safe to drink incorporate a tart smell and also taste, readjust in color, and also lumpy texture.

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Drinking a sip or two of spoiled milk is i can not qualify to cause any kind of serious side effects.

However, consuming moderate or big amounts can reason food poisoning and result in symptoms choose nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and also diarrhea (16).

If symptoms persist or worsen, or if you start experiencing indicators of dehydration, it’s important to do an appointment with your healthcare provider (16).


While a sip of spoiled milk is unlikely to cause any type of harm, drinking moderate to huge amounts could reason food poisoning and an outcome in symptom such as vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea.