Ice cold chocolate milk after a run, homemade peach ice cream on a hot summer evening, melted cheese on top of a burger at the neighborhood barbecue…dairy foods and summer go together perfectly. But nothing spoils a delicious meal or snack as quickly as food that has gone bad. When temperatures rise, so do the risks of food spoilage. Keep your dairy foods fresh this summer, and year round, by following these simple tips for storage and handling.
- At the grocery store, dairy foods should be one of the last items you purchase before checking out. Use an insulated bag or small cooler to transport them home. This is especially important in hot weather, where the rising temperatures can cause milk to go bad more quickly.
- When home, put your dairy foods (and other cold foods) in the refrigerator immediately.
Store milk on the refrigerator shelf, where it is cooler, instead of the refrigerator door.
- Fridge temperature should be between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The cooler refrigerated milk is kept, the longer it lasts and the safer it is. As the product is allowed to warm, the bacteria grow more rapidly. Properly refrigerated, milk can withstand about two weeks’ storage
- The date printed on the side of your milk is called a sell-by date. The sell-by date is the last date a grocery store can keep milk in stock. Milk can typically last four to seven days past the sell by date on the container as long as it has been kept cold (35-40 degrees F) and handled properly.
- Hard, natural cheese (such as cheddar and Swiss) can keep for 1-2 months if sealed properly. After opening, wrap tightly in moisture-resistant wrappers, such as wax paper, and store below 40°F. A small patch of mold on block cheese is totally normal. It doesn’t mean you need to throw away the cheese. Just remove the mold from the cheese with a one inch square. If mold appears on processed cheese, semi-soft cheese or cottage cheese, discard the cheese
When dairy foods are stored and handled properly, they aren’t only safer, but they taste better. Here’s to a dairy-licious summer!
Laura Buxenbaum, MPH, RD, LDN