Drinking expired milk might not be as bad as you think. Perhaps you went to the kitchen last night and took a few sips of cold milk. A few moments later, you realized that milk was past the expiration date. However, this doesn’t mean that you should throw it away and head over to the ER. As it turns out, manufacturers use terms like “sell by” and “use by” as indicators of quality, not safety, explains the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). What matters most is where and how you store your food.
Eat by Date, an organization that informs consumers on how long food lasts, says that milk lasts five to seven days beyond its “best by” date. Non-fat and lactose-free milk can last up to 10 days. Just make sure you store it in the refrigerator and place it on a shelf rather than in the door, recommends Eat by Date. You can freeze it for up to three months, but this might change its color and texture.
Keep reading to see how drinking expired milk affects your body.
Drinking expired milk can take a toll on your digestive system
Expiration dates are sham, but this doesn’t mean that it’s safe to drink milk weeks after its “best by” date. Like most foods, milk and other dairy products go bad sooner or later. When that happens, they develop a sour smell or taste. You may also notice changes in their color, texture, and consistency. All in all, expired milk is likely safe for consumption, depending on how it was stored. Spoiled milk, on the other hand, may cause bloating, diarrhea, stomach pain, and other digestive problems.
Most milk products sold in the U.S. are pasteurized, according to the FDA. Pasteurization destroys harmful bacteria, which helps extend food shelf life. However, it doesn’t kill all pathogens, reports a 2018 study published in the Journal of Dairy Science. Any microorganisms in milk can multiply and cause food poisoning (especially when the milk is not stored properly).
A small sip of spoiled milk is unlikely to cause any harm, says the Missouri Poison Center. But if you drink a larger amount, you may experience digestive distress. These symptoms usually subside within 12 to 24 hours. The Missouri Poison Center advises against taking anti-diarrheal medications, as they may prevent your body from eliminating the bacteria that caused food poisoning. Instead, you should drink small amounts of fluids with sugar or electrolytes to stay hydrated. Reach out to a medical professional if your symptoms persist.
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