What storage tips could extend the life of milk?

Proper refrigeration--from processing plant to kitchen--is critical to maximizing the lifespan of milk. Keeping milk on the table or in a refrigerator that’s above 40° F promotes bacterial growth and accelerates deterioration, while exposure to direct sunlight can reduce the milk’s riboflavin content and nutritional value, according to dietitian Carol Hicks. Sunlight will most affect milk stored in clear containers, Hicks said. Consumers can avoid problems with milk by following these practices recommended by Cornell University’s Department of Food Science and the National and Midwest dairy councils.

• Shop for milk just before reaching the supermarket check-out, and transfer milk to a refrigerator or cooler as quickly as possible, especially in hot weather.
• Before purchasing, check the carton thoroughly for leaks and dirt. A dirty carton may indicate a processing plant with lower standards.
• Check the temperature of your refrierator with a refrigerator thermometer to be sure it is below 40° F.
• Store milk on an interior refrigerator shelf rather than in the door, where the temperature fluctuates with frequent opening.
• Make a note of the date that the milk was opened. 
• Don’t pour leftover milk you put in a glass or pitcher back into its original store container. 
• Milk should be kept in its original container.  The materials in which it was packaged have been approved for this type of food under the type of conditions that it will be stored.
Steven C. Murphy, Senior Extension Associate (Milk Quality Improvement Program)
Department of Food Science, Cornell University
National Dairy Council Factsheet: “Newer Knowledge of Dairy Foods--Protecting the Quality of Milk and Other Dairy Foods”
Susan Brewer, Ph.D. University of Illinois, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
Carol Hicks, registered dietician and program coordinator, Midwest Dairy Council


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