Food Safety

Dairy Products

Milk and dairy products are perishable and should be handled with care. Milk, whole and low fat, will keep for 10 days in the refrigerator. Opened evaporated milk will maintain quality for 3 to 5 days. Reconstituted nonfat dry milk will keep well for one week. Cream, light or half and half has a shelf life of 4 weeks in the refrigerator if unopened and one week when opened. Heavy or whipping cream will keep well for one week. Freezing these products are not recommended as the quality will be altered. Whipping cream may be frozen for a short period of 1 to 2 weeks, but keep in mind that it will not whip after thawing in the refrigerator.

The following is a list of selected dairy products and recommended refrigerator storage times...

  • butter and margarine- 3 months
  • buttermilk- 1 to 2 weeks
  • sour cream- 1 month
  • yogurt- 10 days
  • soft cheeses, such as cottage cheese, ricotta and cream cheese- 1 to 3 weeks after opening

Freezing soft cheeses, such as cream cheese and cottage cheese, will change their texture. Cream cheese will become crumbly when frozen, but can be used in cooking when creaminess is not important.

Unopened packages of natural, aged cheese such as cheddar, swiss, and mozzarella, will keep for 2 to 3 months in the refrigerator and 6 to 8 months in the freezer. Slices and well wrapped opened packages will remain fresh for 2 to 3 weeks. Grated parmesan and romano will maintain quality for up to one year. It is recommended to keep pasteurized process cheese for no longer than 3 weeks. It can also be frozen for 6 to 8 months.



Milk will keep for 10 days in the refrigerator.

Meg McAlpine
Contributing Editor