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Is it OK to drink expired soy milk?

Introduction

Soy milk is a popular plant-based milk alternative made from soybeans. It’s rich in protein and low in saturated fat, making it a healthy choice for many people. However, like other dairy milk alternatives, soy milk does have an expiration date printed on the carton. So what happens if you drink soy milk past its expiration date? Is it still safe to consume? Here’s a detailed look at how to tell if soy milk has gone bad and whether it’s OK to drink expired soy milk.

How to Tell if Soy Milk Has Gone Bad

There are a few key signs that indicate your soy milk is no longer fresh and should be discarded:

Sour smell and taste

Fresh soy milk should have a mild, creamy aroma and flavor. If your soy milk smells sour or bitter and tastes off, it’s a clear sign it has spoiled.

Curdling, clumps, or film

Normal soy milk should have a smooth, uniform consistency. If you notice your soy milk is curdled or has clumps or film floating in it, toss it out.

Mold growth

Check the soy milk carefully before pouring – if you see any fuzzy mold growing on the surface or around the lid, the soy milk has gone bad. Discard the entire carton, even if the milk below the mold looks fine.

Change in color

While fresh soy milk is creamy white, spoiled soy milk may look yellow or brown. An abnormal change in color usually means it’s time to let it go.

How Long Does Soy Milk Last?

Understanding how long soy milk stays fresh past its printed date depends on when and how it’s opened and stored:

Unopened soy milk

If stored continuously at 40°F or below, unopened shelf-stable soy milk lasts for:

– 3 to 5 months past the printed “best by” date

– Up to a year past the processing date

Once opened, shelf-stable soy milk will last 5-7 days in the fridge.

Refrigerated soy milk

For soy milk that requires refrigeration, the shelf life after opening is:

– 7-10 days past the printed date if kept at 40°F or below

Type of Soy Milk Fridge Life After Opening
Shelf-stable soy milk 5-7 days
Refrigerated soy milk 7-10 days

Is it Safe to Drink Soy Milk Past its Expiration Date?

So is it OK to drink expired soy milk as long as it hasn’t gone bad? Here’s a breakdown of the safety issues:

Nutrient degradation

One concern with expired soy milk is the loss of nutrients over time. Soy milk is a good source of protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12, calcium, and more. Levels of these sensitive nutrients may start to decrease after the expiration date.

Bacterial growth

Even if it smells and looks normal, bacterial growth is a risk in expired soy milk and any other dairy-free milk. Bacteria like salmonella, listeria, and E. coli can grow over time, especially if the soy milk is not stored at the proper cold temperature. Consuming contaminated soy milk could potentially lead to foodborne illness.

Enzymatic changes

Enzymes in the soy milk react over time, causing the flavor, color, and odor changes that signal it has spoiled. While these natural enzymatic changes don’t necessarily make expired soy milk unsafe, the altered taste means quality is diminished.

Tips for Safely Consuming Soy Milk

If you’ve determined your soy milk is OK to drink past its date, here are some tips for safety:

– Give it a sniff test – never consume if smells or looks “off”
– Check for mold before pouring
– Store soy milk on the refrigerator shelf, not the door where temperature fluctuates
– Keep refrigerated soy milk at or below 40°F
– Don’t let soy milk sit out on the counter or in hot car
– Once opened, use within 5-7 days and don’t exceed 10 days even if refrigerated
– Best to use by printed “sell by” or “best by” date for peak freshness and nutrients
– Discard immediately if you see any curdling, separation, or other signs of spoilage

The Bottom Line

While it’s probably fine to consume soy milk a few days past its printed date, it’s generally best to stick closely to expiration dates on the package. The further past its expiration date, the higher the risk of bacterial growth in dairy-free milks. For peak nutrition and flavor, use refrigerated soy milk within a week of opening.

Shelf-stable soy milk may last longer thanks to the aseptic packaging. But if you notice any changes in appearance, smell, or taste – or if you are concerned about diminished nutritional quality – it’s safest to discard soy milk that is more than 3-5 months past its printed date, even if unopened.

Rather than take a chance on spoiled milk, err on the side of caution. If in doubt, throw it out and avoid the possible stomach upset. With so many plant-based milk options lining store shelves today, you can easily grab a new carton of your favorite soy, almond, oat, or coconut milk to enjoy.

References

Smith, J. (2021). How Long Does Soy Milk Last? Shelf Life, Expiration Date. https://www.eatbydate.com/dairy/milk/soy-milk-shelf-life-expiration-date/

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2019). What is the shelf life of soy milk once it is opened? https://www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/four-steps/refrigerate/what-is-the-shelf-life-of-soy-milk-once-it-is-opened

Harvard Health Publishing. (2021). Got soy milk? https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/got-soy-milk