Does Ice Cream Go Bad After Expiration Date? How To Tell?


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So, you’ve got a tub of Ben & Jerry’s, and you’ve eaten half the tub during your movie marathon… Fantastic, we’d do the same thing since we have a sweet tooth!

But when you place your ice cream in the freezer, it leaves you with a thought: Does ice cream go bad? And if it does, when is it time to chuck it into the bin?

We answer all your questions about ice cream and its expiration date, so read on!

Does Ice Cream Go Bad?

image of ice cream lasts

Ice cream needs no introduction. It’s a delicious sweet we love having for desserts or pairing with baked goods.

As the name suggests, ice cream obviously lives in the freezer when we aren’t busy eating it. Since freezing is a standard preservation method, it’s easy to presume that ice cream can last for years.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Ice cream does go bad even when it stays in the freezer. After all, it is still food, most of which have a finite shelf life. Plus, given that ice cream is usually made of dairy, it would expire at one point.

Supposedly, ice cream’s shelf life is up to two months for unopened packs, and after that, the quality starts to falter. Once you do open ice cream, the clock starts ticking, and we only have about a month or two to finish it without risk of spoilage.

That said, it’s worth noting that the best-by labels you see on the ice cream tub are a bit conservative. Some people mention that you can eat unopened ice cream tubs 2-3 months past the printed date!

So, if an unopened tub of ice cream can last for 2-3 months past its printed date, how about the shelf life of opened ice cream tubs?

Opened ice cream, it can last for 1-2 months past its printed date. However, we recommend consuming ice cream within three weeks of opening it to get the quality flavor still.

There are also other types of ice cream with different expiry dates, such as:

  • Unopened sherbet lasts for 3-4 months past its printed date
  • Opened sherbet lasts for 2-3 months pasts its printed date
  • Ice cream cake can only last for one week unless it doesn’t have any cream cheese, whipped cream, butter, or eggs

These dates are only a general assumption and under proper storage conditions. Depending on the ice cream brand and how you store it, it can last longer or shorter than the best-by date suggests.

Why Does Ice Cream Go Bad?

The typical ice cream contains a host of frozen dairies, such as condensed milk, cream, eggs, and butterfat. While all these ingredients are pasteurized and frozen before being sold, it’s still dairy, and it will expire over time, even when in the freezer. (*)

Think of ice cream as frozen milk, which lasts just a bit longer than dairy milk in terms of shelf life. It’s not fine cheese you’ll want to age because when it spoils and you take a big bite, it might make you hate ice cream forever.

And let’s not forget the fact that there’s a risk of freezer burn, which has bacteria infesting your ice cream! When you open your ice cream tub, its contents become vulnerable to bacteria, as sugar becomes an incubator for tiny parasites.

Besides that, with the difference between freezer and room temperature, ice cream’s moisture levels will change from the heat and humidity, which affects its texture. If you leave it outside, it will also attract insects, making it less appealing to eat.

There is also a chance of food poisoning when you refreeze melted ice cream, as bacteria have had a chance to grow and multiply while the ice cream is out of the freezing temperature. That’s why you must scrape off the melted part of ice cream before placing the tub back in the freezer.

How to Know if Ice Cream is Bad

If you have left ice cream in the freezer for a considerable amount of time, it’s best to check if it’s gone bad before consuming it. These are the signs to watch out for:

  • If you see ice crystals, your ice cream may have gone bad and needs to be thrown out, as it has experienced freezer burn. You can scrape the tiny ice crystals off, but the taste will be off.
  • You see some mold growth and insects in the tub.
  • There is an odd smell or taste, similar to expired milk.
  • There’s a change in texture, looking gooey with small ice shards that float, looking like a liquid-like substance.

What happens if you consume bad ice cream? A tiny bite to test won’t hurt, but if you consume more than a scoop, then there’s a chance that you can contract foodborne illnesses from the potential bacteria growth.

Here are some of the foodborne illness symptoms you may experience after eating expired ice cream:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea

If you experience any of these symptoms, consult a health care professional and head to emergency care if they worsen.

How to Store Ice Cream

Now that you know about the expiration date of ice cream, how can you store it properly for it to last longer? Here are a few tips to follow:

  • Finish your entire carton of ice cream in one sitting! It’s the perfect excuse to eat all the ice cream you want. Kidding aside, it’s best to consume your ice cream within a week, and you can share it with friends to make it easier.
  • When freezing your ice cream, make sure it is below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. We do this to avoid freezer burn.
  • Place your ice cream container at the back of the freezer, which is where your tub won’t be affected by temperature fluctuations as much as you open and close the freezer door.
  • Never mix ice cream with odors from frozen onions or stew! Prevent that from happening by placing used tea bags or baking soda in your freezer to prevent mixing odors.
  • Never have air get into the ice cream. You can do this by placing ice cream in an airtight container or plastic box, placing plastic wrap on the ice cream, or using special containers designed to store ice cream.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions to help with your ice cream woes!

1. What happens when my ice cream experiences a freezer burn?

Freezer burn occurs when moisture heads to your ice cream and evaporates. It then forms tiny ice crystals on the ice cream surface and inner lid.

2. How do I remove ice crystals?

Ice crystals form due to freezer burn. That causes your ice cream not to taste as great!

To prevent that from happening, lower the temperature in your freezer and tightly seal your ice cream container with plastic film, then close the lid tightly. You can also place your ice cream tub upside down when storing it in the freezer!

3. Can I eat ice cream if it gets freezer burn?

You can still consume ice cream even when it gets freezer burn, but it may not taste as good. We recommend that you blend it and make it into a milkshake!

Wrapping It Up

Ice cream lasts long as long as you know how to store it properly. Now that you know the shelf life of ice cream and tips on keeping ice cream properly, then follow the information above!

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