Can you get sick from eating expired ice cream?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “can you get sick from eating expired ice cream” with an in-depth analysis of the health implications of eating expired ice cream. Moreover, we are going to discuss the shelf life of ice cream.

So without much ado, let’s dive in and figure out more about it.

Can you get sick from eating expired ice cream?

You may get sick from eating expired ice cream. Ice cream can potentially make you sick owing to the fact that it can provide a suitable medium for bacteria to grow once it melts.

So there can be two reasons lying behind why ice cream goes bad, the first thing can be that the ingredients that are used to make ice cream get tainted with bacteria while secondly if the ice cream gets melted then bacteria can also grow in it.

The main ingredient of the ice cream is milk or cream and it is unusual for the milk or the cream to harbor bacteria. Moreover, as they are pasteurized so pasteurization can kill bacteria like Salmonella, E.coli, Listeria, etc.

When it comes to the eggs, in the industry pasteurized eggs are used that almost eliminates the chances of the presence of Salmonella while in the case of homemade ice cream if unpasteurized eggs are used then it can pose the risk of Salmonella infection.

Now when the ice cream melts, it provides a suitable medium to grow. Moreover, the bacteria can also enter the ice cream via the serving utensils, etc.

Moreover, once your ice cream has melted, it won’t be safe after refreezing it as bacteria like Listeria can still thrive in such ice cream.

So if you have devoured ice cream that has gone bad, in serious cases it can result in food poisoning that is characterized by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, weakness, headaches, and dehydration.

A mild food poisoning lasts for about a day or two while a more persistent case of food poisoning can last for about 10 days.

  1. Diarrhea is an indication of the body that a certain obnoxious agent has entered it. So consumption of expired or bacteria-laden ice cream often causes diarrhea.
  1. Food poisoning after consuming bad ice cream is characterized by abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is also accompanied by vomiting and nausea in most cases.
  1. If you have consumed ice cream that has bacterial growth on it then you will experience nausea and vomiting which is the natural defense of the body to get rid of the unwanted harmful substance that has entered the body.
  1. Consuming ice cream that has gone bad will also raise your body temperature and you can experience fever which is the natural defense mechanism of your body and is the indicator that something is off with your body.

So in case you have devoured bad ice cream and are now suffering from vomiting and diarrhea,  you should try to drink as much water as possible so that while the body is getting rid of the toxins in form of diarrhea and vomiting, the water that you drink will protect your body against dehydration that vomiting can otherwise result in.

Moreover, severe and potentially life-threatening food poisoning symptoms involve diarrhea persisting for more than 3 days, fever higher than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, symptoms of severe dehydration, and bloody urine. In such a case, you should seek medical help immediately.

No doubt that consuming bad ice cream will induce food poisoning in the individuals that consume them but some vulnerable populations are more prone to food poisoning if they consume bad ice cream. They are

  1. Elderly people especially those that are above the age of 65
  1. Children that are aged under 5 as their immune system is weak as compared to the adults
  1. Pregnant women
  1. Immunocompromised people have a very weak immune system and are already suffering from diseases like HIV or the people that have recently got a transplant or have gone through surgery.

Therefore such people should take more care while consuming food and should always check if the ice cream they are going to consume is good or spoiled.

You should do the sensory evaluation of the ice cream, before deciding whether or not you are going to eat it.

The formation of ice crystals in the ice cream that begins on the surface of the ice cream and can travel all the way down to the bottom of the ice cream tub with time is a sure sign of the freezer burn and it is better to discard such ice cream as it won’t have the same texture or flavor as that of the fresh ice cream.

What are the symptoms if I eat expired ice cream? 

Expired ice cream or ice cream that has been contaminated with fungus or bacteria can lead to food-borne illnesses. The symptoms can include gastric and digestive issues, pain, cramps, nausea, and vomiting.

Can you eat expired ice cream? 

Yes, you can eat expired ice cream unless there is significant growth of bacteria in it like mentioned before. Ice creams have the best by date, not the expiration date. It means that you can safely consume ice cream even past the mentioned date. However, it is possible you may see some changes in texture or taste by the best by date.

What is the shelf life of ice cream?

Unopened ice cream lasts for about 2-3 months past the “best before” date printed on it. While once opened it is recommended to use your ice cream within 2-3 weeks (ice cream retains its best quality and creamy texture for about 7-10 days).

It is worth mentioning that the figures mentioned above are the estimated shelf life of ice cream.

You can read how to make ice cream here.

Tips to properly store ice cream

  1. You should ensure never to leave your ice cream above 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacterial growth takes place at a faster pace between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit therefore it is always advised to store your ice cream at a lower temperature to preserve its freshness and quality for a long time.
  1. You should never let your ice cream sit out for more than 2 hours. The ice cream lasts for about 2 hours when kept at room temperature (1 hour if the temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more). You should discard the ice cream that has been left in open for more than 2 hours as bacterial growth takes place at a faster pace between the temperature of 40°F and 140°F, therefore there are greater chances of the ice cream are already contaminated with bacteria when left out for more than 2 hours at the room temperature.
  1. Always scoop your ice cream with a clean spoon and avoid licking the spoon or using the used spoon to scoop out the ice cream again.
  1. Keep your ice cream frozen.
  1. It is recommended to store ice cream on one of the shelves of the freezer rather than the door as there is a lot of temperature fluctuation at the door of the freezer.
  1. In the case of homemade ice cream, avoid using unpasteurized eggs or raw milk to make ice cream.
  1. Always use pasteurized eggs and milk to make ice cream.
  1. It is good practice to place a plastic wrap over the ice cream’s surface in the container and afterward close the lid of the container. This way you can protect the texture and minimize the formation of ice crystals on the ice cream.


In this brief guide, we answered the question “can you get sick from eating expired ice cream” with an in-depth analysis of the health implications of eating expired ice cream. Moreover, we discussed the shelf life of ice cream.


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