How long is cheese good for after sell by date?

Cheese is one of the most popular dairy products consumed around the world. But with so many different types of cheese and packaging styles, it can be confusing to know how long cheese is safe to eat after the sell by date printed on the package.

The sell by date is not an expiration date, so cheese may still be enjoyed for a period of time after that date. However, the quality and safety will slowly decrease as the cheese ages past its prime. With proper storage conditions, most types of cheeses are still consumable and retain good quality for 1-2 weeks after the sell by date. Some very hard cheeses may retain good quality for 1-2 months or longer. Soft cheeses have the shortest shelf life beyond the sell by date.

It is important to assess cheese for signs of spoilage before enjoying it past its sell by date. Changes in color, texture, smell, taste, and the growth of mold are all indicators that the cheese may no longer be safe to eat. With careful assessment, you can feel confident knowing how long after the sell by date your cheese is still good.

What is the difference between sell by date, best by date, and use by date?

The date labels printed on cheese packaging can be a source of confusion for consumers. Here is a breakdown of what each date label means:

  • Sell by date – Recommended date for retailers to sell the product by for optimal quality
  • Best by date – Recommended date for best flavor or quality. Cheese is still safe to eat after this date.
  • Use by date – Final date recommended for use of the product while at peak quality. Cheese may not have the best texture, flavor, or safety after this date.

The sell by date is intended more for retailers and is not an expiration date, but a general guideline for when the product will be at peak quality. Consumers can still enjoy cheese beyond the sell by date, but its optimal freshness diminishes over time.

How can you tell if cheese is bad after the sell by date?

Here are some signs that cheese has spoiled and is no longer safe to eat after its sell by date:

  • Appearance changes – Mold, dry spots, excessive moisture, surface crystals, dark or dull color
  • Texture changes – Very dry, crumbly, slimy, or mushy
  • Smell – Sour, ammonia, yeasty, or foul odor
  • Taste – Very bitter, sour, or unpleasant flavors

Cheese may also be unsafe to eat if there is significant gas production inside the packaging or any other signs that bacteria has been actively growing. Always do a quick visual, smell, and taste check before consuming aged cheese.

How long do different types of cheese last after sell by date?

The optimal shelf life of cheese after its sell by date depends on the style and characteristics of the cheese. Here is an overview for different cheese varieties:

Hard Cheeses

Examples: Cheddar, Parmesan, Swiss, Gouda

Shelf Life After Sell By Date: 2-4 weeks in fridge, 2-8 months in freezer

Features: Lower moisture content, firmer texture. Hard cheeses generally have a longer shelf life than soft cheeses.

Semi-Hard Cheeses

Examples: Provolone, Monterey Jack, Havarti, Brick

Shelf Life After Sell By Date: 1-2 weeks in fridge, 2-6 months in freezer

Features: Medium moisture content, can range from pliable to firm texture.

Soft Cheeses

Examples: Brie, Camembert, Mozzarella, Cottage Cheese, Ricotta

Shelf Life After Sell By Date: 1 week in fridge, does not freeze well

Features: High moisture content, soft, creamy texture. More perishable than aged hard cheeses.

Blue Cheeses

Examples: Gorgonzola, Stilton, Roquefort

Shelf Life After Sell By Date: 2-3 weeks in fridge, 2-4 months in freezer

Features: Crumbly texture with blue/green mold throughout. The mold imparts flavor but also contributes to faster spoilage.

Processed Cheeses

Examples: American cheese, Velveeta, Cheese slices

Shelf Life After Sell By Date: 2-3 weeks in fridge, 3-6 months in freezer

Features: Contains added emulsifiers. Maintains moisture well but can break down faster than natural cheeses.

Keep in mind that the recommended shelf life may vary between specific products within each cheese type based on factors like ingredients, aging time, packaging, and storage conditions.

How to store cheese after opening?

Proper storage is key to maximizing the shelf life and quality of cheese after opening. Here are some storage tips:

  • Keep refrigerated at 40°F or below, consistent temperature is best
  • Seal tightly in original wrap or an airtight container if repackaging
  • If cheese was cut, cover cut surfaces with plastic wrap
  • Keep areas around cheese clean and dry to prevent mold
  • Don’t freeze cheese after opening unless using within 2 months
  • Soft cheeses may keep longer sealed in original packaging until ready to use

Avoid temperature fluctuations in the fridge, as condensation that forms can encourage mold growth. Storing cheese in the low 40s F helps slow continued ripening that can diminish flavor and texture over time.

How to store different types of cheese?

The optimum storage method can vary based on cheese characteristics:

Hard cheeses

  • Can be stored tightly wrapped in fridge for several weeks
  • If cutting a large block, wrap remaining cheese tightly in plastic wrap
  • Grate and freeze for later use, keeps several months

Soft cheeses

  • Leave wrapped until ready to use
  • Once opened, consume within 5-7 days
  • Seal airtight, baggy wrap encourages mold growth
  • Don’t freeze if very high moisture (e.g. ricotta), freeze drier varieties

Mold-ripened cheeses

  • Keep wax rind intact, trim mold 1/2 inch below surface
  • Wrap cut cheese tightly in waxed or parchment paper
  • Monitor closely for added mold and use soon

Shredded cheeses

  • Pour into airtight container, press down to remove air pockets
  • Moisture causes fast spoilage, use within 5 days
  • For longer storage, freeze up to 4 months

Tailoring storage based on the needs of a specific cheese will help maximize its post-sell by date shelf life.

What cheeses last the longest after sell by date?

Some cheeses are more shelf stable than others. Very hard cheeses and those with lower moisture can often last the longest past a sell by date when properly stored. Some good choices are:

Cheese Type Fridge Life After Sell By
Parmesan 5-6 weeks
Cheddar 3-4 weeks
Swiss 4-5 weeks
Provolone 3-4 weeks
Gouda 4-6 weeks

Of course, food safety and quality should be assessed on an individual basis, as factors like storage conditions also impact edibility.

What cheeses last the shortest after sell by date?

Softer cheeses with high moisture tend to have the shortest shelf life after being sold. Some examples include:

  • Mozzarella – 1 week
  • Feta – 2 weeks
  • Brie – 2 weeks
  • Cottage cheese – 1 week
  • Ricotta – 1 week

Soft fresh cheeses like these should be monitored closely for mold development and consumed soon for best quality. Always rely on food safety indicators over the sell by date alone.

Can you freeze cheese after the sell by date?

Freezing cheese enables it to be preserved for extended storage past the sell by date. Hard and semi-hard cheeses freeze well for 2-8 months. Softer cheeses should be frozen when fresh for optimal texture.

Best practices for freezing cheese include:

  • Double wrap cheese tightly in plastic wrap and foil
  • Seal in airtight container or freezer bag
  • Freeze at 0°F or below for best preservation
  • Thaw overnight in fridge before use
  • Use within 1-2 weeks after thawing

The freezing process can impact texture, so cheese is best used for cooking after thawing rather than eating raw. With proper freeze storage, cheese can last for many months beyond the sell by date.

Can you eat moldy cheese?

It is not recommended to knowingly eat moldy cheese. Some molds that grow on cheese can produce mycotoxins that may cause illness if consumed in large amounts. Discarding the moldy sections alone may not make the cheese safe for consumption.

Soft cheeses should be discarded if they develop heavy mold growth. With firm cheeses like cheddar, blue cheese, gorgonzola, etc. you can cut off mold at least 1 inch around the affected area. The denser texture helps prevent mold spreading internally. But this is only safe if the cheese is within its expiry window.

Mold growth signals that the quality is diminishing and other microbes may be actively growing. For highest safety, discard moldy cheese.

Can expired cheese make you sick?

Eating expired cheese can increase the risk of foodborne illness. As cheese ages past its prime, harmful bacteria like Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli are more likely to grow, especially if not properly refrigerated. Dangerous bacteria may be present even when the cheese looks, smells, and tastes normal.

Aging diminishes cheese’s acidity, allowing bad bacteria to thrive. Soft cheeses are particularly high risk due to their high moisture content. Sickness symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and cramps.

Pregnant women, young children, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems have greater vulnerability to serious illness through contaminated cheeses. Taking proper safety precautions when enjoying aged cheese is important.

What to do if you’ve eaten expired cheese?

If you consume cheese past its recommended date, monitor closely for any adverse symptoms. If significant gastrointestinal distress or flu-like illness occurs, seek medical care. Drink plenty of fluids and call a doctor immediately if severe vomiting, diarrhea, fever or neurological issues arise.

Notify authorities if multiple people became ill eating the same expired cheese. Identifying if a foodborne illness outbreak occurred can help stop further spread. While one incident of eating aged cheese rarely leads to issues, expired dairy is not worth the gamble.

Tips for enjoying cheese past its date

Here are some tips for safely enjoying cheese beyond its sell by date:

  • Check packaging – Is it swollen or leaking? This signals spoilage.
  • Remove a small amount – Look and smell for off-colors, textures, or odors.
  • Start with a tiny taste – Flavor should not be bitter or unpleasant.
  • Use firmer cheeses – Avoid soft ones; stick to hard cheeses for aging.
  • Watch for mold – Any visible mold means don’t eat it.
  • Cook it – Melting cheese in dishes is safer than eating it raw.
  • When in doubt, throw it out!

Using care when aging cheese enables extending the post-sell by date window while minimizing food safety risks. But if any signs of spoilage arise, it is always better to be safe than sorry and discard the cheese.


Determining the usable shelf life of cheese after its sell by date requires assessing its quality and safety. While factories choose sell by dates well before true expiration, cheese eventually declines in freshness, texture, and safety. Hard cheeses generally last weeks to months after sell by, while soft cheeses are only safe for several days.

Look for changes like mold, slime, off-colors or odors to determine if aged cheese is still consumable. Freezing can prolong shelf life, but spoiled or moldy cheese should always be discarded. With proper storage and precautions, many cheeses can be enjoyed past their prime sell by date while avoiding foodborne illness risks.

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