How long is individually wrapped string cheese good for?

Individually wrapped string cheese is a popular snack food that can last for surprisingly long periods of time when stored properly. But how long exactly can you expect string cheese to stay fresh and edible past the printed expiration date?

Quick answer

Unopened individually wrapped string cheese can be safely consumed for 1-2 weeks past the printed sell by or best by date, provided it has been continuously refrigerated at 40°F or below and the packaging remains intact. Opened string cheese will last about 7-10 days past the date on the package when stored in the fridge.

How is string cheese packaged and processed?

Individually wrapped string cheese sticks are designed for extended shelf life. The cheese sticks are manufactured through a process called pasta filata, which involves stretching and kneading the cheese while it is still warm to achieve the unique stringy texture.

After being shaped into sticks, the cheese is quickly chilled. Each stick is then individually packaged in plastic wrap or a carrying tube. This packaging protects the cheese from contamination and exposure to air and light, allowing it to last much longer than regular bulk cheese.

The individual wrappers also come printed with a sell by or best by date, which informs retailers how long to display the product. Consumers should note this is not technically an expiration date, but rather an estimate of peak freshness.

How to tell if sealed string cheese is still good

If stored properly in the fridge, sealed string cheese can often be safely consumed for 1-2 weeks after the date on the package. However, you should still inspect it closely and rely on your senses, not just the date alone.

Look for signs of spoilage like mold, soft spots, or sliminess. There should be no discoloration or funky odors. The cheese should feel firm when gently squeezed through the packaging. If the indivual stick is dried out or hard, it is likely still safe but may not taste very good.

How long does opened string cheese last?

Once opened, the shelf life of string cheese shortens due to exposure to air and increased risk of contamination. Keep any unused portions wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or an airtight container. Properly stored in the refrigerator, opened string cheese will generally last about 7-10 days past the printed date.

Discard any string cheese that develops mold or smells unpleasant. The opened sticks will gradually lose their texture and flavor over time. For best quality, try to eat within about 5 days of opening.

Signs that opened string cheese has spoiled:

  • Mold growth
  • Slimy texture
  • Sour or “off” smell
  • Dried out or hard cheese
  • Discoloration

Does freezing extend the shelf life of string cheese?

Freezing can more than double the shelf life of sealed string cheese from the printed date. To freeze, simply store the individually wrapped sticks in a zip-top freezer bag, squeezing out excess air. Frozen string cheese will maintain quality for 2-3 months.

Thawed string cheese is safe to eat but may become more crumbly. For best texture, thaw overnight in the fridge. Opened string cheese can also be frozen but should be used within 1 month.

What affects the shelf life of string cheese?

There are a few key factors that determine how long string cheese will stay fresh and consumable:

  • Storage temperature – Refrigeration at 40°F or below is required to slow bacteria growth and prevent spoilage.
  • Packaging – Individually wrapped sticks protect the cheese from contamination, air exposure, and light.
  • Ingredients – Preservatives help extend shelf life but can affect taste.
  • Exposure to air – Once opened, oxygen can degrade cheese and dry it out faster.
  • Damage to packaging – Any holes or tears in the wrapper will shorten freshness.

How can you extend the shelf life of string cheese?

Here are some tips for getting the longest possible shelf life out of your string cheese:

  • Purchase string cheese with the furthest away sell by or best by date.
  • Keep sealed sticks in the coldest part of the refrigerator until ready to eat.
  • Check packaging for holes, damage, or openings before purchasing.
  • Limit exposure to light and air by keeping cheese in the original bag.
  • Rewrap or seal any opened portions in plastic wrap or airtight containers.
  • Freeze extras to prolong shelf life for up to 3 months.

Signs that string cheese has gone bad

If you notice any of the following signs, discard the string cheese immediately:

  • Mold – This appears as blue, green or white fuzzy spots.
  • Slimy texture – The cheese feels overly soft, shiny, or gummy.
  • Sour or unpleasant smell.
  • Off-colors like gray, yellow or brown.
  • Dry, crumbly cheese that doesn’t string.
  • Yeasty odor and bits of foam.
  • Soft spots or wet areas.

Remember that not all spoilage will be clearly visible. Always err on the side of caution and throw away string cheese that tastes or smells bad or “off” even if it looks okay.

Is expired string cheese safe to eat?

While individually wrapped string cheese can often last for 1-2 weeks past the printed date, it is not recommended to consume any dairy products that are more than 3-4 weeks past the date on the package. At this point, the risk of bacteria growth and foodborne illness increases.

If stored continuously at proper refrigerator temperature, sealed string cheese up to 28 days past the best by date has a decent change of still being safe. However, the texture, flavor, and quality deteriorate over time. For the best eating experience, use string cheese within 14 days of the date on the package.

Once opened, string cheese should always be discarded after 10-14 days past the printed date. Never eat string cheese that is moldy or has an unpleasant odor, even if it still looks okay otherwise. When in doubt, remember it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Frequently asked questions

How can you tell if natural string cheese has gone bad?

With natural string cheese that has no preservatives, look for mold, sliminess, discoloration and an unpleasing sour smell as signs it has spoiled. Natural cheese has a shorter shelf life than processed string cheese.

Does string cheese need to be refrigerated?

Yes, string cheese always requires refrigeration. Leaving it unrefrigerated for over 2 hours can allow bacteria growth leading to increased risk of food poisoning. Refrigeration helps string cheese retain quality and freshness.

Can you freeze string cheese?

Individually wrapped string cheese can be frozen for up to 2-3 months past the sell by date. Opened string cheese can be frozen for about 1 month before quality deteriorates. Thaw overnight in the fridge before eating.

Can bad string cheese make you sick?

Consuming string cheese that is over 3-4 weeks past date or shows signs of spoilage can potentially cause foodborne illness. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and cramps. Moldy string cheese may contain mycotoxins that can cause acute poisoning.

Does the sell by or best by date really mean anything?

These dates are more about peak quality than actual safety. With proper refrigerated storage, sealed string cheese should retain good flavor and texture for 1-2 weeks past the printed date. However, the risk of spoilage increases over time after opening.

Can you freeze sliced string cheese?

Pre-sliced string cheese doesn’t freeze as well as whole sticks. The slices may stick together and the texture will become more rubbery when thawed. For best results, freeze string cheese in the original stick form.

Is moldy string cheese safe if you cut the mold off?

No, moldy string cheese should be completely discarded. The root threads of mold can spread unseen through the cheese so cutting it off does not make it safe. Consuming moldy cheese may cause illness.


When properly stored in the refrigerator, sealed packs of string cheese stay fresh and consumable for 1-2 weeks past the printed sell by or best by date. Once opened, use within 7-10 days. Check for signs of spoilage like mold and unpleasant odors. Discard overly old or compromised string cheese to avoid potential food poisoning.

With adequate refrigeration and intact original packaging, the shelf life of string cheese can be safely extended past the date on the package. However, quality and taste will slowly decline over time. For best flavor and texture, use refrigerated string cheese within 2 weeks of purchasing.

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