Can out of date cream make you sick?

In this article, we answer the following question: Can out of date cream make you sick? and discuss the proper storage of cream, its shelf life, and what may happen if you eat expired cream. 

Can out of date cream make you sick?

Yes, out of date creams can make you sick if the cream has been contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms or their toxins or contains a high number of these microorganisms. Cream is highly susceptible to microbial spoilage.

E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella typhmurium, L. monocytogenes, and Bacillus cereus are some of the pathogenic bacteria that can grow in cream (1).

However, if the cream does not present any signs of spoilage, it is possible that you experience no adverse effect of consuming the out of date cream. Eating cream out of date does not necessarily pose a health risk, and it is unlikely that it will make you sick (2). 

What are the risks of eating out of date cream?

The risks of eating out of date cream are of experiencing a foodborne disease in the short term (1) and to expose yourself to oxidized fats, which in long term may lead to inflammatory diseases (5).

Some bacteria and their spores may survive heat treatments applied to the milk products and develop during storage. Examples are Listeria monocytogenes which develop rapidly when present in cream. Bacillus cereus produces emetic toxins that cause diarrhea and E. coli O157:H7 can cause diarrhea and hemolytic uremic syndrome in humans (1).

In addition, in the long term, the consumption of oxidized lipids from food sources can lead to diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis, inflammation and the aging process. 

The oxidation process in lipids generates compounds and free radicals which are considered toxic and are known to interact with biological materials to cause cellular damage. 

In the long term consuming oxidized lipids, such as from out of date cream, you are exposing yourself to aldehydes and peroxides resulting from chain oxidation of fatty acids. These compounds may react with proteins and the DNA, increasing the risks of inflammatory diseases (5). 

When should you not consume out of date cream?

Out of date cream should not be consumed if there are noticeable signs of spoilage of the cream. These include:

  • Rancidity in cream and presence of off-odors are signs of degradation of proteins and lipids caused by bacteria (4).
  • Yeasts and molds can grow in cream and produce gas, which may lead to swelling and bursting of the packaging
  • The overgrowing of lactic acid bacteria can lead to the formation of bitter compounds (off-flavor) and rancidity 

What is the shelf life of cream?

The shelf life of cream varies from a few days to years, depending on the way it has been processed. The shelf life of dairy is usually affected by the microbial load of the product and processing under heat can reduce the amount of microorganisms in milk milk products.

Pasteurized milk products undergo a heat treatment of 72-75 °C  for 15-30 seconds or at 63-66 °C for at least 30-32 minutes or even at 85°C for 2 seconds (3). This processing method renders a shelf life of about 10 days to the cream under refrigeration (6). 

When cream and other dairy products are treated by ultrapasteurization (UHT), the product is sterilized at a high temperature (above 135 °C) for 1-2 seconds, resulting in a longer shelf life of the product, of 1 month under refrigeration (6). 

After being opened, pasteurized cream can be stored for 10 days and UHT cream for 1 week under refrigeration. Under frozen storage, cream can be kept for 3 to 4 months. 

There are also shelf stable creams, with an improved shelf life of several months at room temperature. However, during storage their whipping properties are reduced (7).

How to store cream?

Cream should be stored under refrigeration for the best results, unopened and opened, even in the case of UHT treated cream (6).

However canned shelf stable cream products can be stored at room temperature in a cool and dry place, away from heat sources (such as electronic equipment) and away from sunlight (8). Once opened, they should be kept under refrigeration.  


In this article, we answered the following question: Can out of date cream make you sick? and discuss the proper storage of cream, its shelf life, and what may happen if you eat expired cream. 

Although it is unlikely that eating out of date cream will make you sick, our recommendation is to avoid consuming expired food. That is because no one can guarantee the consequences of eating out-of-date food: foodborne illnesses. 


  1. Verma, Deepak Kumar, et al. Microbial Spoilage in Milk and Milk products: potential solution, food safety, and health issues. Microorganisms in Sustainable Agriculture, Food, and the Environment. Apple Academic Press, 2017. 171-195.
  2. Food Product labeling. United States Department of Agriculture.  
  3. Bezie, Assefa. The effect of different heat treatment on the nutritional value of milk and milk products and shelf-life of milk products. A review. J. Dairy Vet. Sci, 2019, 11, 555822.  
  4. Rawat, Seema. Food Spoilage: Microorganisms and their prevention. Asian j plant sci Res, 2015, 5, 47-56.
  5. Frankel, Edwin N. Lipid oxidation: mechanisms, products and biological significance. J Am Oil Chem Soc, 1984, 61, 1908-1917.
  6. Foodkeeper. United States Department of Agriculture. 
  7. Smiddy, M. A., A. L. Kelly, and T. Huppertz. Cream and related products. Dairy fats and related products. 2009, 61-85.  
  8. Van Laanen, Peggy. Safe home food storage. Texas FARMER Collection. 2002.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!