It’s a question that has been bandied around kitchens for decades and there are a whole lot of myths surrounding it, so at Arla, we thought it was high time we gave some answers about whether it’s safe to drink milk past its expiration date.
To put things straight before we begin, the answer to the above question is yes – you can drink milk past its expiration date and it’s just as tasty and as safe to do so. One of our priorities at Arla is reducing food waste, which is why we have switched to a ‘best before’ date on our branded fresh milk. Milk can often last a few days longer than traditional use by dates, and it’s easy to check whether it’s still fresh with a quick look and a sniff.
How long does milk last after its use by date?
There is no way to tell precisely how long milk will last after its use by date, though it’s thought that unopened milk generally stays good for 5-7 days¹. Filtered milk like Arla Cravendale and Arla Big Milk can often last even longer so long as it’s chilled and stored properly.
It’s hard to say for sure how long milk really lasts, but we’d always recommend smelling or quickly tasting the milk before you discard it after its expiration date. Your sense of smell and taste are your best friends here, and they’ll give you the best indication of whether the milk is ok to drink – if it doesn’t smell, look strange (lumpy or separated), and it tastes just fine, then you’re okay to drink it.
How best to store milk?
Your best bet for enjoying your milk for longer is to store it well. It’s hard to say for how many days milk can be stored, but here are some tips to help store milk for longer:
- To keep milk fresh for longer, put it straight into the fridge as soon as you get home
- Maintain the right temperature in your fridge (Between 1-4 degrees Celsius)
- When using your milk, keep the time the bottle is out of the fridge down to as little as possible
- Always reseal the bottle or carton as quickly as you can
- Only drink from a glass or a bowl, never directly from the bottle or carton
- Consider freezing milk by putting it straight into the freezer. Be sure to transfer to a suitable container before freezing, and defrost in the fridge for a minimum of 24 hours.
Use by date myths
There are plenty of myths and misunderstandings surrounding the use by or best before dates on bottles or cartons of milk, but the simple fact of the matter is, your best judge of whether your milk has gone bad or not is the ever-reliable sniff test. Simply hold the milk up to your nose, and if it smells bad, or doesn’t look quite right, then it has probably spoiled. If you can’t tell, just have a quick taste to be sure – it should be very apparent by the taste.
What is the difference between use by date and best before date?
There is a difference between the use by date and the best before date on food products, including milk.²
The use by date tells consumers when a food item should be consumed or used by. It might not always be spoiled after this point, but the chances it’s unsafe to eat are higher.
A best before date tells you when a food item may start to lose some freshness or quality, but it can still be perfectly fine and safe to eat after that date.
As a country, we discard of hundreds and thousands of tonnes of milk each year, often because people trust use by dates over smell and taste. Discover how much food we waste annually with our blogpost, and for more information about milk and its benefits, visit our website.