How Long Is Milk Good for After the Expiration Date?

Medically Reviewed on 8/10/2022
How Long Is Milk Good for After the Expiration Date
Milk safety and quality depend on whether the milk carton was opened and how it was stored

There is no consensus regarding how long you can safely consume milk past the expiration date. Milk safety and quality depend on whether the milk carton was opened and how it was stored.

In most cases, unopened milk stays good for 5-7 days past the expiration date when stored properly. Opened milk may not be fit for consumption after 2-3 days of the expiration date even when stored properly.

What do the dates on your milk carton mean?

Both the FDA and USDA have strict laws against any misleading information being put on product labels. However, the FDA does not regulate how food manufacturers do product dating except for infant formula. This can create confusion among consumers since different states have different regulations for expiration date labeling for milk.

The quality and safety of food products may be indicated by dates such as “use-by,” “sell-by,” “best if used by,” and “expiration” dates:

  • Best if used by or before date: This date indicates when the milk will be of the best flavor or quality. 
  • Use-by date: This indicates the last date recommended for use while the product is at peak quality. However, it does not indicate whether the milk is unfit for consumption beyond this date.
  • Sell-by date: This date indicates when stores can keep milk for sale on their shelves and can help with inventory management.

Therefore, although these dates can give you an idea of how long your milk will taste the best, it does not mean that the milk will be unsafe to drink after those dates.

How can you tell if milk has gone bad?

Because product dating does not indicate milk safety, knowing how to tell whether milk is safe for consumption is important. To know whether milk has gone bad, there are three factors to consider:

  • Smell: Spoiled milk has a distinct sour odor. Lactic acid is produced by the breakdown of sugars in the milk due to bacteria.
  • Color: Spoiled milk loses its whiteness and may appear slightly yellow.
  • Consistency: Spoiled milk may look lumpy or curdled.

How to store milk properly

Milk can still be good after the best-by or sell-by dates, but there are things you can do to keep your milk from going bad too quickly:

  • Buy only pasteurized milk.
  • Do not open the milk carton unless you want to consume it right away.
  • Place the milk carton at the back of the refrigerator. Avoid keeping the milk in the door of the refrigerator where the temperature may be lower and prone to fluctuation.
  • Make sure that your refrigerator is functioning properly with a core temperature of about 38 to 40 F.

What are the side effects of drinking spoiled milk?

While drinking a few sips of spoiled milk may not make you sick, consuming larger amounts can result in symptoms such as:

Symptoms may be mild and usually subside within 12-24 hours. Symptoms can be alleviated by drinking plenty of fluids such as oral rehydration solutions to replace the fluids and electrolytes lost due to diarrhea and vomiting

If symptoms are severe or do not seem to improve, contact your doctor.


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 8/10/2022
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Food Product Dating.

Spoiled Milk.