What Happens if You Eat Expired Ice Cream?

Ice cream is a beloved, ice-cold treat, especially during the hot summer months. If the temperatures suddenly skyrocket and you check your freezer for something to cool down, you will be delighted to find a tub of ice cream. But what if it’s expired? Can you still eat it?

Ice cream has a “best by” date rather than an expiration date. While the quality of the ice cream may deteriorate, it will still be safe to consume for a few months after the “best by” date as long as there are no signs of spoilage.

Hello! I’m Michelle, and my mom used to call me The Dairy Queen. Why? Because, well, I have always been obsessed with ice cream. I usually eat my ice cream before the expiration date, but I was still curious if it was safe to eat. 

Here’s what I learned about eating expired ice cream.

Can You Eat Expired Ice Cream?

It is generally safe to consume expired ice cream as long as there are no signs of spoilage. That’s because ice cream is stored in the freezer, which does not create the optimal environment for bacterial growth.

That doesn’t mean that ice cream lasts forever, though. Ice cream’s quality can and will deteriorate as time goes on. So, even if it’s “safe” to consume, it might not taste that great.

Ice cream is also not immune to going bad. For example, ice cream that has melted and refrozen can cause mold to grow, in which case the expired ice cream would not be safe to consume. 

What Happens if You Eat Expired Ice Cream?

So, what happens if you dig your spoon into a batch of ice cream past its “best by” date? Probably nothing – again, as long as it is not spoiled. If anything, you may find the taste subpar and not want to consume it anyway.

In the chance that you eat expired and spoiled ice cream, the most you will likely end up with is a stomachache. Some people may experience more severe symptoms, so it’s best to know and understand the signs of spoilage in ice cream.

3 Signs That Your Ice Cream is Spoiled

There is a big difference between “expired” ice cream and “spoiled” ice cream. Knowing the signs of spoilage can reduce the chances of ending up with belly aches or more severe symptoms. Here are the three key things to look out for:

  • Ice shards. Ice shards appear like tiny icicles on the lid and top portion of your ice cream. While they may not be necessarily harmful, they will affect the quality negatively.
  • Change in texture. Ice cream should be firm. If it’s exhibiting a slimy or gooey texture, it’s spoiled and needs to be tossed ASAP.
  • Stale odor. Last but not least, smell the ice cream. If it doesn’t smell sweet and delicious and instead smells stale and unappealing, it’s past its prime and time to be thrown out.

Your ice cream will spoil rather quickly if it melts and is refrozen. If your ice cream melts to the point it resembles soup more than ice cream, it’s best not to try and save it. Throw it out and buy or make a fresh batch of ice cream.

Shelf Life of Ice Cream

Most ice cream tubs come with a “best by” date rather than an expiration date. This date observes when the ice cream is freshest, not necessarily when it goes bad. That said, it’s essential to know the actual shelf life of ice cream.

  • Unopened ice cream can easily last a few months beyond the “best by” date.
  • Opened ice cream has a shorter shelf life of six weeks. 

Keep in mind that these are general shelf life timeframes. Proper storage will ensure that your ice cream has the most extended longevity. I.e., it is properly sealed and stored toward the back of the freezer.

FAQs

There you have it – your ice cream is likely safe to consume for a while beyond the “best by” date, as long as it’s not spoiled. Here are a few more questions people have asked and wanted to know the answer to.

Can you get sick from old ice cream?

Old and spoiled ice cream can make you sick, yes. The good news is that ice cream that’s gone bad will likely have an off-putting texture or flavor, in which case you’re not likely to consume a whole lot of it. You may end up with a stomach ache or worse if you eat large quantities or have an allergic reaction.

Can old ice cream give you food poisoning?

Old and spoiled ice cream can give you food poisoning. This is especially true for ice cream that has melted entirely and is placed in the freezer. That’s because melted ice cream is prone to swift bacterial growth that won’t be killed off when re-frozen.

Does frozen ice cream expire?

Frozen ice cream expires at one point, but it’s generally safe to consume for a few months beyond the “best by” date. However, the quality will deteriorate beyond the “best by” date, so you might consider purchasing or making a fresh batch.

Can ice cream mold?

Ice cream is not prone to mold because it is stored in the freezer, an environment that does not promote bacterial growth. That doesn’t mean it is impossible, though. Ice cream can mold, especially when melted and refrozen. Mold causes a change in texture and an odd odor.

Final Words

It’s generally safe to consume expired ice cream. If your ice cream is past the “best by” date, it’s best to check for other signs of spoilage before consuming it. If your ice cream smells, looks, and tastes OK, you can eat it. However, I recommend buying or making fresh. You won’t have to worry about tummy aches, and it will taste better.

Have you ever eaten expired ice cream?  Share your stories with us below!

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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  • Cass

    I have horrible diarrhea, at what point should i see a doctor?

    Reply
    • Michelle

      Hi Cass,
      I’m no doctor, so if you think it’s serious, you should definitely see a professional.

      However, according to Mayo Clinic, you should see a doctor if you have the following:

      “Diarrhea lasts more than two days without improvement
      Excessive thirst, dry mouth or skin, little or no urination, severe weakness, dizziness or lightheadedness, or dark-colored urine, which could indicate dehydration
      Severe abdominal or rectal pain
      Bloody or black stools
      A fever of more than 102 F (39 C)”

      Happy baking,
      Michelle

      Reply