Expired Yogurt & Food Poisoning

yogurt with berry and muesli
A bowl of yogurt. (Image: margouillatphotos/iStock/Getty Images)

For quality and freshness, it's better to eat yogurt by the use-by date, according to Stonyfield Yogurt. There are a number of reports that say it's OK to eat expired yogurt, but if you're not careful, you risk foodborne illness eating yogurt past its prime. Contact your doctor immediately if you suspect food poisoning after eating expired yogurt.

About Expiration Dates

Expiration dates on food packages started in the 1970s as a means for food manufacturers to indicate peak freshness, according to a 2013 article in Time. Dates on foods are not required by the federal government with the exception of infant formula. Types of dates seen on food packages include "sell-by," "best if used by (or before)" and "use-by." Yogurts are labeled with a use-by date, which means you should eat the yogurt before the labeled date for best quality, not necessarily safety.

Is Your Yogurt Safe to Eat?

If you have yogurt in the refrigerator that's expired, you should inspect it before tasting it. Even a taste of bad yogurt can make you sick. The American College of Emergency Physicians says if your yogurt is growing mold, you should throw it away. Yogurt doesn't typically smell bad, even if it has turned, according to ACEP, so you can't trust your nose to detect safety. As the saying goes, when in doubt, throw it out.

Risks of Eating Expired Yogurt

Most symptoms of food poisoning related to yogurt include intestinal distress such as diarrhea. Mold, slow-growing bacteria or microorganisms introduced to the yogurt from added ingredients are the typical causes of food poisoning from yogurt. Some people are more vulnerable to food poisoning than others, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Pregnant women, young children, the elderly and people with a compromised immune system such as those with HIV should not eat yogurt past the use-by date.

Keeping Yogurt Fresh

The processing and acidity of yogurt offer some protection against pathogens that cause foodborne illness, according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Making sure your refrigerator is cold enough, 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, may help prevent the growth of mold and bacteria in your yogurt. Store your yogurt on the top shelf in the refrigerator and not on the door to keep it at the right temperature. The refrigerator door is the warmest section of the fridge, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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