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Does the Expiration Date Matter? For These Drinks, Yes…
For the majority of foods, the "sell by" or expiration date is a guideline to reduce your risk of buying and consuming spoiled goods. Even if you eat that packet of crackers or drink that gallon milk a few days past the expiration date, you may have nothing to worry about. Or do you? There are a few cases where the expiration date really does matter! Here are the drinks you want to be careful of if you've already passed the "sell by" date:
If you've got milk, yoghurt, or cream that is past its expiration date, it's wise to be careful and check before you drink. Dairy products tend to curdle, and not even the chill of the fridge can prevent that--it will only slow down the rate of spoiling. Curdling isn't the worst problem, but you may find that your milk is filled with bacteria or your yoghurt with mold. Don't let it expire too much, it your milk may go beyond buttermilk and become completely unusable.
If you're one of those people who prefers to drink raw milk, you need to be sure that you drink it as soon as possible. The fact that the milk has NOT been pasteurized (heated to destroy bacteria) means there could be a lot of potentially harmful microorganisms in the milk. The longer they sit in your fridge, the more they will multiply and potentially harm your stomach. Drink raw milk well before the expiration date!
Raw juice faces many of the same risks as raw milk, though with fewer bacteria as a whole. There is always the chance that the raw fruit or veggie juice will be contaminated with E.coli bacteria, or listeria. The fact that the juice hasn't been pasteurized may mean that it has a higher antioxidant content, but antioxidants can't kill off bacteria!
Food Not Stored Correctly
If food is sold in the cold storage section of the store, it belongs in your freezer or fridge! Anything like juice, cream, coffee creamer, yoghurt drinks, and frozen foods need to be stored in the fridge or freezer, else you may find them infested with bacteria. The expiration date on these cold foods is also much sooner than dry goods, so you should only buy what you can drink. If you don't have space in the fridge, either make space, or just don't buy foods that need to be refrigerated!
Cold Pasteurized Drinks
The process of cold pasteurization is all the rage for "healthy" juices and drinks these days, as the process is designed to kill off bacteria without using heat, which degrades antioxidants and vitamins. However, not all cold pasteurized drinks are safe, especially not after their expiration date. Cold pasteurization isn't as effective as the process that uses heat, so there is still a risk of bacteria. Be very careful when drinking cold pasteurized drinks!
100% Veggie Juice
Bacteria loves veggies almost as much as they love fruit! If you are going to drink 100% veggie juice that is raw and unprocessed, you're running the risk of E.coli, listeria, and other bacteria. The acid naturally found in fruits helps to protect you from bacteria, but veggies have no acid, thus nothing to kill off the bacteria. The highly alkaline veggie juice is much more conducive to bacterial growth. You should be very wary of any 100% veggie juice that is bottled, but try to drink any truly veggie-only juice when you buy it. It's the best way to avoid any bacteria or germs that could contaminate your drink!