Condensed milk, often used in recipes like fudge and caramel, has a very long shelf life compared to regular milk. This is due to the canning process which removes 60% of the water content and increases the sugar content. The removal of water makes it impossible for bacterial growth while the sugar acts as a natural preservative. Even after expiry, an unopened can of condensed milk can often last months or even years past the ‘best by’ date.
Does condensed milk go bad?
Yes, condensed milk can go bad eventually if stored for too long. Like any other food product, condensed milk has a shelf life and will show signs of spoilage if stored past its expiry date. However, an unopened can of condensed milk lasts significantly longer than regular milk and may still be edible for weeks or months after the ‘best by’ date.
How can you tell if condensed milk is bad?
Here are some signs that indicate your can of condensed milk may have gone bad:
- Bulging can: If the can looks bloated or misshapen, it could mean bacteria have contaminated the contents and produced gas.
- Rusty can: Rust spots indicate the can integrity has been compromised and air/bacteria are getting in.
- Leakage: Any leakage from the can shows it’s no longer sealed and should not be consumed.
- Mold: Visible mold around the rim or inside the can when opened.
- Curdling: Condensed milk looks curdled or has lumps rather than being smooth.
- Separation: Clear whey separates from the solids and floats on top.
- Off smell: An unpleasant sour, bitter, or ‘off’ smell means it has spoiled.
- Off taste: Condensed milk doesn’t taste normal or has a bitter, sour, or ‘off’ flavor.
If you notice any of these warning signs, it’s best to err on the side of caution and discard cans of condensed milk.
How long does unopened condensed milk last at room temperature?
An unopened can of condensed milk can last 2-3 weeks at room temperature (60-75°F) past the ‘best by’ date printed on the can. Since condensed milk has a very low water content and high sugar level, it’s unlikely to spoil from bacterial growth during this time if the can remains properly sealed.
However, condensed milk will degrade in quality faster at warm room temperatures compared to refrigerated storage. For best quality and shelf life, an unopened can of condensed milk should be stored in a cool, dry pantry and used within 9-12 months from the production date.
How long does opened condensed milk last in the fridge?
Once opened, condensed milk will only last 5-7 days in the refrigerator before going bad. This is because exposing condensed milk to air allows bacteria to contaminate it. An opened can must be stored in an airtight container or resealed tightly in the fridge.
To maximize freshness, pour condensed milk into a clean airtight container like a mason jar rather than keeping it in the original can after opening. Discard any condensed milk if it develops an off smell, flavor, or appearance after refrigeration.
Can you freeze condensed milk?
Yes, condensed milk can be frozen to extend its shelf life. An unopened can of condensed milk can be safely frozen for up to 1 year as long as it remains properly sealed. Freezing prevents bacterial growth by halting all biological activities.
Once opened, condensed milk can be frozen for up to 3-4 months in airtight containers or bags. Make sure to leave headspace to allow for expansion as the condensed milk freezes. Thaw frozen condensed milk in the refrigerator before using.
How to store condensed milk correctly?
To maximize condensed milk’s shelf life, follow these tips for proper storage:
- Store unopened cans in a cool, dry pantry away from heat and sunlight.
- Refrigerate after opening and use within 5-7 days. Store in airtight containers.
- Label opened cans with date of opening before refrigerating.
- Do not store directly on refrigerator door where temperature fluctuates.
- Keep condensed milk containers clean and sanitized.
- Freeze for up to 1 year unopened, 3-4 months opened.
- Always inspect cans for signs of damage, rust, or swelling before opening.
How to tell if refrigerated condensed milk has gone bad?
Refrigerating opened condensed milk can extend its shelf life for up to a week. However, there are visual and sensory cues that can help determine if refrigerated condensed milk has gone bad:
- Appearance: Watery whey separation, curdling, mold growth, abnormal discoloration
- Texture: Becomes thicker and lumpier than smooth and creamy
- Smell: Sour, spoiled, rancid, or ‘off’ smell
- Taste: Sour, bitter, unpleasant, or ‘off’ flavors
- Color: Unnatural darkening or grayish tones
- Gas bubbles: Bubbles or foaming indicates microbial fermentation
If your refrigerated condensed milk exhibits any of these signs, it has likely spoiled and should be discarded. When in doubt, remember the old adage – “If in doubt, throw it out!”
What happens if you accidentally eat expired condensed milk?
Eating spoiled condensed milk that is past its expiry date or has been stored improperly can cause foodborne illness. Consuming spoiled condensed milk introduces harmful bacteria including streptococcus, staphylococcus, salmonella, and E. coli into your gut.
Symptoms of food poisoning may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain and diarrhea
- Fever and chills
- Muscle aches
In otherwise healthy people, food poisoning usually resolves on its own within 24-48 hours. However, symptoms can be more severe and dangerous in vulnerable groups like infants, elderly, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems.
In case of severe vomiting, diarrhea, high fever, or bloody stools, it’s important to stay hydrated and seek medical care to prevent dangerous dehydration, especially in high risk groups.
Can expired condensed milk make you sick?
Yes, consuming condensed milk past its expiry date can make you sick due to foodborne bacteria like salmonella, E. coli, staphylococcus aureus, and listeria monocytogenes. Canned goods like condensed milk are shelf-stable until opened, but can still harbor dangerous pathogens when stored for too long past their expiry date.
Even one mouthful of severely expired condensed milk can trigger vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, and other flu-like symptoms within 8-72 hours of consumption. Young children, pregnant women, elderly, and immunocompromised individuals have the highest risk of infection and complications.
It’s not worth the risk of serious illness to consume expired condensed milk. Always heed expiration or ‘best by’ dates on cans, and discard any bulging, leaking, rusty, or foul-smelling cans without tasting the contents. When in doubt if an unopened can may still be safe, remember it’s better to be safe than sorry.
An unopened can of condensed milk typically lasts 2-3 weeks past its ‘best by’ date if stored properly at room temperature. For maximum freshness and shelf life, condensed milk is best preserved refrigerated or frozen. Once opened, condensed milk only lasts 5-7 days in the fridge before bacterial spoilage can occur. Outdated or improperly stored condensed milk can cause foodborne illness if consumed. Always inspect canned goods carefully and discard any cans that appear damaged, swollen, or spoiled.
Following safe food handling and storage methods allows you to safely extend the shelf life of condensed milk beyond its ‘best by’ date. But when in doubt, remember it’s better to throw it out and not consume expired canned foods that may put your health at risk.