Dairy

Milk and dairy products made from milk, such as butter, cheese, and yogurt, are rich in vitamins and minerals. But because milk and dairy products can carry bacteria and other germs that can make people sick, keeping these products safe is important. So here’s some information to help you shop for these products and store them properly.

Consider only buying milk and dairy products that have been pasteurized.

The USDA, FDA, and CDC all recommend that you buy milk that has been pasteurized. The same goes for products containing milk, such as cheese. Pasteurization is a process of heating a food to a specific temperature for a certain amount of time and then cooling it. This doesn’t kill all bacteria and other germs in food, but it does reduce them to a level that is safe to eat or drink.  If you’re not sure if a product has been pasteurized, check the label. If you’re still not sure ask your grocer.

Buy milk and dairy products before the “sell-by” date.

The sell-by date on milk and dairy products lets store employees know how long they have to sell them. While the date is based on quality, the USDA recommends that you buy milk and dairy products before the sell-by date.

Make the dairy department one of your last stops when shopping. 

Bacteria could grow when milk and dairy products are left out at room temperature. That’s why the dairy department should be one of the last stops on your shopping list. Why? This will reduce the time your gallon of milk spends riding around in your cart and will help keep bacteria from growing.

Keep milk and dairy products cool on the car ride home.

Milk and dairy products can be exposed to high temperatures during the car ride home, especially during summer months! Get in the habit of storing milk and dairy products in insulated shopping bags. A good old fashioned cooler will also do the trick. If you can, store milk and dairy products inside the car rather than in the trunk during summer months. Your air conditioner will keep these food items cooler than they would be in the trunk.

Keep your shopping route as short as possible.

When you’re done buying groceries, go straight home. Running errands after shopping is always a bad idea because it puts your food at risk. Do other chores first so when you leave the store, you arrive home promptly.

Refrigerate milk and dairy products as fast as possible.

After unpacking your groceries, get the milk and dairy products in the refrigerator at warp speed! Leaving them out gives bacteria a chance to grow and could make you or your family sick.

Store milk and dairy products at the correct temperature.

Your refrigerator should be set to hold food at an internal temperature of 40°F (4°C) or lower. That goes for milk and dairy products too! Pour a little milk in a glass and check the temperature. You’ll need a thermometer to do it. If the temperature is above 40°F (4°C), lower the temperature of your refrigerator.

Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood away from dairy products.

Never let raw meat, poultry, or seafood drip onto dairy products in your refrigerator. For example, cheese can be at risk because it’s frequently stored in the deli drawer underneath the shelf with raw meat, seafood, and poultry. It only takes a drop of blood or other juices to put the cheese at risk. Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood in leak-proof containers to help prevent this. See the Meat, Poultry, or Seafood sections for more information.

Throw away dairy products that are moldy.

According to the FDA, most moldy food should be thrown out. Hard cheeses, salamis, and firm fruits and vegetables can sometimes be saved by cutting the mold out. But if there is a lot of mold you should throw it out. As the saying goes, better safe than sorry.