Is It Safe To Eat Ice Cream After Its Expiration Date?

Most people don't even contemplate whether or not the gallon of cookies and cream ice cream in the freezer will go bad. It simply doesn't last long enough for anyone to even think about. To wit (and according to the International Dairy Foods Association), Americans eat 1.4 billion gallons of this creamy dessert each year, or roughly 23 pounds per person. But in the rare instance that your ice cream has been in the freezer longer than you can remember, is it still safe to eat? 

Sadly, the answer may not be the definitive, "yes" you want to hear. Per Livestrong, bacteria love foods that are high in protein, particularly dairy. While freezing and very cold temperatures can impede the growth of bacteria, they cannot stop it completely. Each time you take your favorite carton of ice cream out of the icebox, it thaws a little and softens up, providing optimal opportunities for bacteria to multiple and ruin your frozen treat.

How do you know when to toss your favorite flavors, and when it is still safe to eat? There are a couple of tell-tale signs you should look for to determine if your ice cream is ready for the circular file.

Tiny ice shards are a sign your ice cream has spoiled

A harbinger of ice cream gone bad is tiny ice shards. According to Eat by Date, if you find these frozen bits on the surface of your ice cream, on the lid, or on the container, your ice cream is starting to spoil. The site notes that, at first, you might be able to scrape off the top layer of your ice cream; however, they will eventually take over the entirety of your gallon or pint of ice cream and turn it inedible. Additionally, you should take a look at the "best before date" when trying to determine if your ice cream can still be devoured safely. Ice cream that has yet to have its lid removed for a scoop or spoonful will last a little longer than ice cream that has been opened. Generally, you can expect it to last for between two-three months past this "best by" date, if stored properly. 

So how do you store ice cream properly? Eat by Date recommends returning it to the freezer promptly after scooping your treat, and with the lid tightly, and securely, in place. They also suggest putting your ice cream in Tupperware to store it, however, and say this will also protect the longevity of this creamy and delicious treasure.