Milk is a staple in many households, providing us with calcium, protein and other essential nutrients that contribute to a healthy lifestyle. But have you ever wondered if it’s safe to drink milk once it’s past its expiration date? Here’s what you need to know about consuming milk after the date on its label.

What Does Expiration Date Mean?

First, let’s talk about what expiration date actually means. Many people assume that this date is the day the milk will become toxic, but that’s not necessarily true. The date is the day determined by the manufacturer that the milk will remain at its best quality. In other words, the expiration dates on your carton of milk is not a safety issue but more of a quality issue.

Can You Drink Milk After Its Expiration Date?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not simple or straightforward. Some people believe that you should not drink milk after its expiration date, warning that it may contain harmful bacteria or exist in an altered state. However, studies have demonstrated that most products—including milk—are edible for up to one week after their expiration date.

How Do You Tell if Milk is Bad?

It can be difficult to know for sure if milk is safe to drink beyond its expiration date. A few tests can help you determine if your milk is still fresh.

-Appearance: Examine the color and consistency of the milk if possible. If it has started to yellow or become slimy, discard it.

-Smell: If the milk has a sour smell to it, there’s a chance that it has soured and should be discarded.

-Taste: Try a small sip of the milk to see if it has an off taste. If it tastes chunky, sour, or like a medication, discard the milk.

Whenever in doubt, discard the milk and replace it with a new one.

What to Do When Milk Expires

If your milk has expired and you feel comfortable consuming it, there are still a few precautions that should be taken. On the day of its expiration, ensure that the milk is transferred to a glass container with a lid that seals. Do not leave the milk open as it can quickly start to spoil.

If your milk is expired and you’re no longer interested in drinking it, you can still put it to use. Milk can be used in a variety of recipes, such as soups, casseroles, scrambled eggs, or even a cake! You can also add the expired milk to your compost bin where the bacteria in it will increase its nitrogen content.

When to Avoid Expired Milk

High-risk individuals, such as pregnant women, young children, and those with weakened immune systems should avoid drinking expired milk altogether. These people can suffer more significantly from food-borne illnesses and consuming expired products. If you have any concerns, it is best to contact your healthcare provider.

Drinking expired milk is not without risks, but it is not inherently dangerous either. Unless you’re a high-risk individual, it is likely okay to consume milk a few days past its expiration date. As mentioned, it is a good idea to perform a few tests on the milk to determine if it is still safe to consume. If in doubt, discard the milk and purchase a new carton.

For those with expired milk, utilize it in recipes or add it to your compost bin to help boost the nitrogen levels. As always, drink with caution and don’t put yourself in danger if you’re concerned about consuming expired products.