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How Long Can I Store Dairy Foods?

I heard that June is “Dairy Month.” I am confused about how long I can store dairy foods. Please help me decode the dates.

Dairy foods are thrown out more often than any other food, according to the Midwest Dairy Council. Often, the foods are still safe to eat. The “sell by” date is the last date the store can display the item in the refrigerated case. Be sure to store dairy foods (milk, yogurt, cheese) in a refrigerator at 40 F or lower.

When properly refrigerated:

  • Milk can be used up to one week past the sell-by date.
  • Soft cheese (Brie, Neufchatel, etc.) can last one to four weeks after the sell-by date.
  • Hard cheese (cheddar, Colby, etc.) lasts up to 10 months after the sell-by date.
  • Yogurt lasts up to 10 days after the sell-by date.

“Use by” and “Best if used by” are quality dates, not safety dates. If dairy products have an unusual flavor or odor, throw them away. If hard cheese (cheddar, etc.) has mold, cut a 1-inch square around the moldy area; the rest of the cheese is OK to use. Moldy yogurt or soft cheese should be thrown away.


Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

Featured in the Food Wi$e June 2017 Newsletter (PDF)

Filed under: storage, Dairy, food safety
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