Can you use heavy whipping cream after the expiration date?

In this short article, we will provide an answer to the question “can you use heavy whipping cream after the expiration date?” and the signs of spoilage.

Can you use heavy whipping cream after the expiration date?

Yes, you can use heavy whipping cream after the expiration date. It remains good for use even past the expiration if kept refrigerated throughout the storage period. The time after the expiration date tha heavy whipping cream can still be used depends on many factors, including the packaging of the product and the manufacturing process.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a product can be safely consumed after its expiration date printed in the packaging, if there are no evident signs of spoilage, such as altered appearance, mold growth, off-odors, bloating, with exception of infant formula (4).

What determines how long you can use heavy cream after its expiration date?

The time that you can still use heavy cream after its expiration date depends on many factors, including (1,2,4,5):

  • The manufacturing process: cream can be processed by pasteurization or ultra-high-temperature (UHT), which defines the shelf life of the product and its properties. The more severe conditions of the UHT processing results in its extended shelf life (up to 30 days), while the pasteurized cream has a shelf life of 10 days unopened and results in different shelf lives after the expiration dates as well
  • The storage conditions: storage temperature before and after being opened can affect the shelf life of the cream after the expiration date. This happens because all of the chemical, enzymatic and microbial changes affecting the product are temperature dependent
  • The handing of the cream after being opened: food handling and hygienic procedures regarding foods affect its shelf life. Improper food handling, such as manipulating food without hand washing or using unclean utensils may lead to microbial contamination of the food
  • The packaging material: there are different types of packaging used for dairy products and filling procedures. Aseptic packaging enables an extended shelf life of the dairy products

How to know if heavy cream has gone bad?

To know if heavy cream has gone bad, you should be able to identify the possible signs of spoilage. Heavy cream, as any milk product, is susceptible to deterioration by the action of microorganisms, enzymes and to undergo chemical deterioration of its components.

Enzymes in cream and other dairy products can degrade lipids, generating fatty acids and secondary products with unpleasant odors (2,5). Off-odors such as sourness can be a result of the uncontrolled action of lactic acid bacteria.

Environmental factors can also trigger chemical reactions that result in off-flavors and off-odors and color changes in the cream. The exposition to oxygen and light causes oxidation of the amino acids and the vitamins in the cream resulting in these undesirable compounds.

Finally, aerobic spore-forming bacteria survive pasteurization, and psychrotrophic strains of Bacillus cereus may cause degradation of the cream and Bacillus subtilis, may survive even ultra high temperature processes, and may cause bitterness, and thinning in sterilized creams (7). 

How to store heavy cream and what is its shelf life?

Heavy cream should be stored in the refrigerator at 40°F or below. Ultra-Processed whipping cream can be stored for one month unopened and for 7 days after being opened (6).

Pasteurized heavy cream (or fresh) can be stored for 10 days if opened and unopened.

Can you freeze heavy cream?

Yes, you can freeze heavy cream. However, after it has been thawed, it is recommended to be used in baking and cooking, because of the severe changes of texture caused by the freeze-thawing procedure. 

Cream is a typical oil-in-water emulsion, which makes it unstable during freeze-thawing. Freezing causes the phase separation between cream and water phases of the product, resulting in syneresis (2).

According to the USDA, whipped heavy cream can be stored for 3 months (6). To freeze cream, place it in a sealed air proof container to avoid contact with air. To thaw cream, place it in the refrigerator overnight. After being thawed, the heavy cream will not have the same whipping properties (3). 

What happens if you consume spoiled heavy cream?

If you consume spoiled whipped cream, you can experience food poisoning. As mentioned earlier in this article, some bacteria and their forms of spores are able to survive even severe thermal treatments and result in the spoilage of the cream. 

Many bacteria are commonly found in dairy products, such as Salmonella, Listeria, E.coli and others. The ingestion of dairy products contaminated by these microorganisms may lead to adverse gastrointestinal symptoms. 

The ingestion of cream containing toxin from Bacillus cereus can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever and vomiting.


In this short article, we provided an answer to the question “can you use heavy whipping cream after the expiration date?” and the signs of spoilage.


  1. 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..  
  2. Mehta, Bhavbhuti M. Chemical composition of milk and milk products. Handbook of food chemistry. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2015. 511-553.
  3. Food Freezing Basics: Freezing Dairy Products, Eggs and Other Foods. North Dakota State University.
  4. Food Product labeling. United States Department of Agriculture.
  5. Rysstad, Gunnar, and Jens Kolstad. Extended shelf life milk—advances in technology. Int j dairy technol, 2006, 59, 85-96.  
  6. Foodkeeper. United States Department of Agriculture.
  7. Pal, Mahendra, et al. Bacterial contamination of dairy products. Beverage food world, 2016, 43, 40-43.

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