Ice cream is arguably the best summer treat. These dairy products are simply delicious, and they will cool you off on hot days. But have you ever found yourself wondering if ice cream can spoil?
Consumers tend to buy ice cream in bulk, and you might get several tubs of it during your trip to the grocery store. When doing so, you have to consider the shelf life of ice cream. Even if we’re talking about an unopened ice cream container, there is a risk of spoilage.
So, does ice cream go bad? The short answer is yes. However, there are steps you can take to help keep your ice cream fresh as long as possible. Read on to learn more.
Does Ice Cream Go Bad?
As with all dairy products, ice cream can spoil. When ice cream thaws, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, which can make you sick if you consume it. As such, you need to be sure to throw away bad ice cream as soon as you think it’s expired.
Proteins within this sweet treat make it ideal for the growth of bacteria. All milk products have the same problem. While you can return this guilty pleasure to the freezer to prevent further bacterial growth, cold temperatures will not kill the microbes already present.
Whenever you want a scoop of ice cream, you’ll need to get the tub out of the freezer, and it will quickly be affected by the outside temperature. Usually, you have to allow the ice cream to melt a little just to get it out. When this occurs, the chance of bacteria exposure increases.
The biggest health issue is with products that have been frozen and unfrozen several times over. This is why you shouldn’t take your ice cream out too often. Generally, it’s safest to eat all the ice cream at once.
The best way to circumvent potential health hazards is by keeping the product in its original container and avoiding temperature fluctuations. As long as you apply these food safety techniques, you will prolong its shelf life.
What Are the Health Concerns?
If you don’t keep your ice cream safe, you can easily end up suffering from a foodborne illness. In that sense, this frozen mood enhancer is not much different from raw meat. Spoiled food will quickly make you sick, and it’s especially troublesome for people with compromised immunity such as seniors, children, and pregnant women.
The risk of food poisoning increases if the ice cream is really old. Nevertheless, proper food storage is the main thing you need to consider. Regardless of ice cream shelf life, it will go bad if you keep it outside of the freezer for too long.
The most common sign of a food-borne illness is diarrhea and other symptoms similar to stomach flu. An infected person may experience fever, stomach cramps, nausea, dehydration, and vomiting. Depending on the type of bacteria, the severity of symptoms may vary.
Health Issues caused by consuming expired ice cream can last from a few hours to several days.
Safety Tips for Buying and Transporting Ice Cream
Perhaps the most common mistake regarding ice cream safety is buying a product that is already expired. Another common problem is that the substance thaws on the way home.
Whenever you buy ice cream, there will be an expiration date printed on the cardboard packaging. This sweet treat should remain frozen from store to home. If you notice the container is soft or sticky, this is a sure sign it has thawed.
To prevent bacterial growth during transportation, make sure that your frozen desserts are placed in a double bag, which should help prevent thawing. Some people go as far as to bring an insulated cooler. While this might seem excessive, it will provide optimal storage conditions for transportation.
Whether it’s a store product or some ice cream you made yourself, make sure to protect it during transport. This fantastic dessert is simply too good to waste!
How Long Will Ice Cream Last In a Freezer?
Even if you keep it in a freezer, ice cream will go bad if you keep it in there long enough. It’s nice to have a backup for your sweet tooth but make sure to use it within its expiration date.
From the moment you put an unopened ice cream container in a freezer, it can last for up to 4 months, assuming it hasn’t thawed. If exposed to warm temperatures, its expiration date will be pushed forward several weeks.
Commercial ice cream makers recommend you store ice cream at 0 degrees F or below and consume it in 2 months or less.
The shelf life of an opened product will be significantly reduced. You will have to use it within a month to reduce the risk of illness.
Ice cream cake is a special kind of ice cream concoction. This sweet treat is mixed with eggs and has a rather creamy texture, which is why it expires more quickly than normal ice cream. You don’t want to store ice cream cake for more than a week.
Ice Cream Storage Tips
Proper storage will not only protect this treat but will ensure it has an optimal taste. No matter what, make sure it always remains in the freezer.
Always remember that freezers don’t have a constant temperature in all areas. Certain areas might experience fluctuations, especially older models. Because of that, it’s best to keep your frozen treats in the back.
Keeping ice cream close to the door is the worst thing you can do because this is where the temperature is the highest. As you will often open the doors, your ice cream will constantly be exposed to temperature changes.
Needless to say, whenever you take a scoop of ice cream, you must return the box to the freezer immediately. Forgetting to close the doors could spell disaster because ice cream exposed to room temperature can spoil rather quickly.
As previously mentioned, freezing ice cream that has already melted will do you no good. Harmful bacteria will already be present in the frosty treat. The best thing you can do at this point is to throw it away and buy a new one.
When you put an opened tub back in the freezer, make sure to wrap it properly with a piece of plastic. That way, you will prevent the development of ice crystals within the container. The formation of ice crystals will affect the dessert’s creaminess and make it spoil faster.
Some people even like to move the ice cream into a new container but this might just complicate things.
Figuring Out if Ice Cream Has Spoiled
There are a few signs you need to look for that indicate when ice cream has gone bad.
If there is a layer of ice crystals on top of the ice cream, you will have to toss it immediately. Ice crystals indicate the product has been thawed and refrozen, which means it’s no longer safe for consumption. You can figure this out if the surface appears too creamy and smooth.
You can also tell if a product has gone bad by the smell. Ice cream typically has a neutral smell due to its high water content. But, if the smell has noticeably changed to a point where ice cream is no longer appealing, you should throw it in the garbage.
Color change is another telltale sign that you have some rotten ice cream.
Can Ice Cream Get Freezer Burn?
Freezer burn is a term that refers to food going bad despite being in a freezer. This phenomenon occurs due to excess moisture that appears within the creamy texture of ice cream. When this happens, you will notice ice on the surface.
As soon as you notice freezer burn on ice cream, you need to throw it out immediately. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to prevent it:
- Make sure your ice cream is always stored at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or less
- Store your ice cream near the back of the freezer
- Always return your ice cream to the freezer quickly after serving
- Airtight bags and plastic wrap can help add overall protection
- Eat all the ice cream at once to avoid repeated freeze and thaw cycles
Most people don’t even think about ice cream going bad. We are often too excited when indulging ourselves in this creamy pleasure to think about the downside. Still, bacterial contamination is a real threat, which can make you sick for days. So, either store your ice cream properly or go ahead and eat it all at once!
We hope you found this article helpful in answering the question, “does ice cream go bad?” For more articles, recipes, and kitchen tips, feel free to check out the other great content on the Savvy Kitchen website.