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Posted in Food Safety on May 30, 2022
If you accidentally leave milk out on the counter, you may be wondering how long it can sit out before it spoils. Generally, milk should not sit at room temperature any longer than two hours. However, if the temperature in the room reaches 90° F, then milk can only sit out for one hour.
When milk is left unrefrigerated for an extended period, bacteria will begin to grow. The lactose in the milk becomes fermented by bacteria at room temperature and turns into lactic acid. A high amount of lactic acid in milk means a high amount of hydrogen ions, which causes a sour taste with a low pH value. When there is low pH, the structure of proteins in the milk, such as casein, will change, causing the milk to curdle. After the bacterial reaction occurs, there will be a yellowish liquid left behind called whey.
Here are some tips for storing milk to keep it from spoiling quickly:
Milk can stay good for several days after the sell-by or best-by date when properly stored.
There are several ways to tell if milk has spoiled:
Change in Smell
One of the first signs that milk has expired is a change in smell. The lactic acid build-up from bacteria will create a distinct sour odor.
Change in Taste
If you drink milk and it has a sour taste, it is safer to discard it. Fresh milk should have a creamy and sweet taste.
Change in Texture
As the milk begins to curdle, it will look thicker and possibly lumpy.
Change in Color
With enough time, spoiled milk will also change color from pearly white. If you notice anything different about the color, it is a sign it is no longer good.
Sell-By Date has Passed
The sell-by date is not necessarily the expiration date but can be used as a barometer for how long the milk may possibly be good for.
A small sip of spoiled milk likely is not a cause for concern. However, if you ingest a moderate or large quantity of spoiled milk, it can take a toll on your gastrointestinal tract. The overgrowth of bacteria may cause a mild case of food poisoning which can present with symptoms of abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you or a loved one became sick from drinking contaminated milk that was not properly handled by a restaurant or by the manufacturer, you may be able to file a product liability claim. To learn more, speak with an experienced food safety lawyer.