Can you drink milk after the use-by date?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “can you drink milk after the use-by date” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not you can drink milk after the use-by date. Moreover, we are going to discuss different ways to do a sensory evaluation of milk. 

Can you drink milk after the use-by date?

Yes. Even after opening, most milk is safe to drink for several days past the use-by or sell-by date. Proper storage and handling may help it stay fresh and safe for longer. However, it’s always important to check for signs of spoilage before drinking. (1)

How long milk last?

Once unpacked, all milk must be used within 4-7 days or until the expiration date is reached.Open milk, whether it be whole milk, skim milk, or reduced-fat milk, stays for about 4 to 7 days before getting spoiled when stored in the fridge at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in an air-tight container or bottle.

Unopened milk has varying shelf lives based on its type. Whole milk typically lasts for approximately 5-7 days, while reduced-fat and skim milk can maintain freshness for about 7 days. 

Non-fat and lactose-free milk have a slightly longer shelf life, lasting for about 7-10 days beyond the printed date, as long as they are stored properly in the refrigerator at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is worth mentioning that the way you have stored your milk also impacts whether or not it is still safe to consume. 

For instance, if your open milk was stored for more than 2 hours at room temperature (or more than 1 hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit) then it is better to discard it.

Bacteria grow best at 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and there are chances of your milk to be already bacteria-laden in this case. (2-4)

What factors affect milk shelf life?

The storage temperatures and methods employed for milk play a crucial role in determining its shelf life. 

Mishandling, improper storage temperatures, and inadequate storage durations can introduce pathogenic microorganisms into milk, posing significant public health risks.

In regions with tropical climates, where transportation, storage, or retail facilities may lack proper chilling capabilities, bacteria cells have the opportunity to recover after thermal injury due to favorable temperatures. 

As a result, there is an increased risk of recontamination of processed milk following heat treatment, primarily attributed to poor hygiene practices.

The number of bacteria present in milk, and consequently its shelf life, is strongly influenced by storage temperatures and methods. (5)

How can you tell if milk is still safe to drink?

Certain indicators point out bad milk, therefore you should consider the appearance, texture, and smell of your milk to reach a final verdict whether it is still suitable to consume or if it has gone bad.

  1. If the milk is curdled or has lumps present in it, then it is an indication of bad milk and you should get rid of it.
  2. If you smell something foul or sour while taking a sniff test then it is an indication that the milk has gone bad and the best thing to do is to discard it.
  3. If the milk has passed the visual and smell test, then you can go ahead and taste it. If you notice a sour or slightly bitter taste after taking a little sip of milk then it is an indication that the fresh milk has gone bad. (6)

What are the Health implications of drinking spoiled milk?

Spoiled milk can cause everything from stomach ache to serious bacterial poisoning or gastroenteritis (food poisoning that can be caused by different bacteria such as salmonella).

The most common symptoms of food poisoning are diarrhea, stomach pain or cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever.

Symptoms vary depending on the kind of contamination, which can be caused by altering the product’s original composition, inappropriate manufacturing, or incorrect storage.

While there are a large variety of microorganisms that contribute to milk and dairy product spoilage, there are a few specific bacteria that can cause serious illness among consumers.

The body heals on its own in the majority of cases of food poisoning caused by spoiled milk. However, it may take you a few days to fully recover from this uncomfortable circumstance. The ideal is to drink lots of fluids. This is to treat dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea. (6, 7)

How to store milk to extend its shelf-life?

Pasteurized milk should be stored in the refrigerator at a temperature of 3-4°C. It is advisable to avoid placing the milk carton in the door of the refrigerator to minimize temperature fluctuations.

When it comes to freezing milk, it can extend its shelf life for up to 6 months. However, it is recommended to consume frozen milk within a month for optimal quality.

It’s important to note that frozen milk may develop a slightly grainy texture and some separation of fat. Therefore, it is best suited for use in cooking, or as an ingredient in smoothies and shakes.

To ensure proper storage, maintain the temperature of your refrigerator between 38°F (3°C) and 40°F (4°C). After using milk, promptly return the carton to the refrigerator to maintain its freshness and prevent any potential spoilage. (1)

Other FAQs about Milk that you may be interested in.

Do Oreos Contain Milk

Does Nonfat Milk Have Lactose

Does McDonald’s Have Almond Milk


In this brief guide, we answered the question “can you drink milk after the use-by date” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not you can drink milk after the use-by date. Moreover, we discussed different ways to do a sensory evaluation of milk. 


  1. Adda Bjarnadottir, Kelli McGrane, How Long Is Milk Good for After the Expiration Date? Them. Healthline Media LLC. 2020.
  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Website. Washington, DC. What is the “2 Hour Rule” with leaving food out?.
  3. Buehler, A. J., Martin, N. H., Boor, K. J., & Wiedmann, M.  Psychrotolerant spore-former growth characterization for the development of a dairy spoilage predictive model. Journal of Dairy Science, 101(8), 6964–6981. 2018.
  4. Lacroix, M., Bon, C., Bos, C., Léonil, J., Benamouzig, R., Luengo, C., … Gaudichon, C.  Ultra High Temperature Treatment, but Not Pasteurization, Affects the Postprandial Kinetics of Milk Proteins in Humans. The Journal of Nutrition, 138(12), 2342–2347. 2008.
  5. Dortey, M. D., Aboagye, G., & Tuah, B.  Effect of storage methods and duration of storage on the bacteriological quality of processed liquid milk post-opening. Scientific African, 10, e00555. 2020.
  6. Lu, M., & Wang, N. S.  Spoilage of Milk and Dairy Products. The Microbiological Quality of Food, 151–178. 2017.
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. Food Poisoning Symptoms 2022.

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