Like many others, you probably use your sour cream for dips rather than a main dish. Along with other dairy products, sour cream will often have a short expiration date, and shouldn’t be ignored too long after it’s bought from the grocery. But just how long do they retain their best quality before showing signs of spoilage?
In this blog post, we answer your question, “is expired sour cream safe to eat,” while sharing other details about this great food item.
Table of Contents
What is Sour Cream?
Sour cream is a dairy product pasteurized cream which is then mixed with lactic acid bacteria. It’s this bacteria that ferment the cream, giving it the distinct acidic and sour taste we all love. While many people think that the shelf life of sour cream is a short one, it can actually last a few weeks past the expiry date when stored properly.
Can You Eat Out-of-Date Sour Cream?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), sour cream is safe to eat for as long as three weeks after its best-by date, provided that it was stored in a refrigerator. It’s important to remember that this date doesn’t refer to its expiration, but rather the date until it keeps its quality. Eating sour cream past its best-by date could result in lost consistency and flavor.
The use-by date, on the other hand, refers to how long food retailers and grocers should keep sour cream on their shelves. This will usually be found printed under the nutrition label on the container. Similarly, the sell-by date doesn’t represent the product’s expiration, and will also have a shelf life of up to three weeks after this date.
When Does Sour Cream Go Bad?
So if the dates on the product itself won’t tell you when sour cream expires, what will?
The answer is in the sour cream.
Knowing how to tell if your sour cream is expired or not is the key to knowing if it’s still safe to eat. Sour cream spoils through the same bacteria that are used to make it: lactic acid bacteria. They produce lactic acid as a result of the whole fermentation process, but the production of too much of this acid will expedite the expiration of sour cream.
Here are a few signs that will tell you whether your sour cream is no longer safe for consumption:
- While sour cream is supposed to be sour, bad sour cream tastes different even if it wasn’t out of the fridge for too long which can be off-putting.
- Expired sour cream will dissolve all the sugars inside it, forming bacteria and encouraging mold growth which will occur when it’s stored incorrectly.
- Bad sour cream won’t have its usual sour smell, and will instead have a pungent odor along with pockets of watery liquid. If you notice these things in your sour cream, it’s time to throw it out.
- Water separates from the cream when it goes bad, so your sour cream may look curdled. If you notice water at the surface of the sour cream, it’s best to throw it away.
- If you’ve kept your sour cream at the right temperature but notice any signs above in your previously unopened sour cream, you no longer have fresh sour cream.
Can Expired Sour Cream be Eaten?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t straightforward — sour cream’s shelf life is around three weeks but can be stored in the fridge for as long as six months. However, it can start to degrade over time and will develop a bad odor as it begins to spoil. Because it’s produced using heavy cream that encourages bacterial growth, lactic acid will break down the proteins in the sour cream.
As a result, the body will have a hard time digesting the food you eat with sour cream, and it will be more difficult to absorb any nutrients. While some people assume that eating expired sour cream is fine there are actually a lot of harmful bacteria that carry serious health risks. Remember that the expiration date found on the container of sour cream is an indicator of how long the bacteria is safe to eat.
The good news is if you choose to consume expired sour cream, you can cook it to ensure that any living bacteria in it are killed.
Can You Bake with Expired Sour Cream?
If you’ve kept your sour cream in cold temperatures for three weeks without showing any sign of spoilage after its printed date, then it’s safe to use for cooking. However, if it has a bitter flavor, has a weird smell, or shows other signs of spoilage, then it shouldn’t be used for baking or cooking. Furthermore, bacteria can spread through cross-contamination across items around your kitchen, so make sure to use a clean spoon and clean utensils when serving sour cream.
Can You Get Sick From Expired Sour Cream?
If you drink or eat any sour cream product after the date of expiration, you might get food poisoning. Check the tub of sour cream for a bitter flavor, solid chunks, an odd smell, and the last date located on the original container. If you do see that the sour cream has spoiled, don’t eat it and throw it away.
It’s possible to become sick after swallowing germs such as E. coli. or Salmonella. Depending on the type of germ you swallowed, your symptoms may vary from something mild or serious, which can last from a few hours to a few days. Below are a few unpleasant symptoms of food poisoning that you should look out for if you’ve accidentally eaten expired sour cream:
- Stomach cramps or pain
How to Store Sour Cream
The best way to ensure that your sour cream lasts as long as possible is to provide it with the right storage conditions. Below are a few tips you can use to ensure that your sour cream keeps its good quality for a long time.
- Be sure to eat the entire container of sour cream within a few weeks after you’ve opened it to ensure that it’s free from bacteria. Of course, unopened tubs will have a longer shelf life, especially if it’s been refrigerated.
- Once you’ve opened your sour cream, you can extend its life by placing it in a freezer bag and placing it in the refrigerator which will keep it away from bacterial genera.
- If there’s no room in the freezer or fridge for the entire tub of sour cream, you can place it inside an airtight container to maintain its freshness. Alternatively, you can also use a sealable plastic bag and you can cover it with plastic wrap around the bag or container.
- You can also increase the temperature inside your fridge — many people make the mistake of keeping their refrigerator too warm for sour cream. The presence of mold will usually begin through high moisture content, so be sure that your fridge doesn’t get too hot.
- While you might be thinking that keeping your refrigerator at the lowest setting is a good idea, this can actually cut the shelf life of some goods and speed up bacterial growth. For best results, make sure to keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below for your sour cream.
Always Check Your Sour Cream
Sour cream is a dairy product beloved by many and makes a great compliment to a wide array of dishes. While it may last longer than expected, it’s still important to carefully check on the product’s expiration date before using it for cooking, baking, or dipping. Even when you’ve stored it in the refrigerator since it was purchased, be sure to discard it at the first sign of spoilage to avoid any unnecessary trips to the hospital due to food poisoning.
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