Can I use milk after the ‘use by date’?

The ‘use-by’ date indicates the date until which the product can be safely consumed and therefore it’s best to avoid drinking milk beyond the specified ‘use- by’ date on the label.

Last updated 23/03/2020

In Australia there are two main types of date marking: ‘best-before’ and ‘use-by’. These date markings are used to determine the shelf-life for the food to be stored before it starts to deteriorate or potentially become unsafe. Any food that has passed its ‘best-before’ date may still be perfectly safe to eat, but its quality may have diminished, whereas a ‘use-by’ date is the last date on which the food may be legally sold and safely eaten. After this date, the food should not be eaten for health and safety reasons, as any food past the use-by date has the potential to cause illness through food poisoning.

Fresh pasteurised milk falls into the second category of date marketing that requires a ‘use-by’ date, although it is likely you would smell when it's past it’s shelf life before you drink it. Pasteurised milk will keep fresh for about 12 to 14 days if kept below 4°C (refrigerator temperature). The reason fresh milk manufacturers have to include a use-by date on the label is that, like all chilled foods that are eaten in the same state in which they are sold (e.g. cheese, yoghurt, milk), some bacteria can grow to dangerous levels, even if the food is kept refrigerated, before the food noticeably spoils.

The best advice is to follow the milk manufacturer's instructions on the label. Stick to use-by dates as they usually indicate the date until which the product can be safely consumed. If your milk is spoiling before the use-by date on the container, your refrigerator may be too warm.

See also: Can I drink milk a day after its used by date?

 

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