Powdered milk is a common household item consumed across different regions.
You might have a packet casually hanging out in the back of your pantry. It is so common, and it is so loved. More importantly, it is a dry product. So most commoners would like to believe that how could it possibly go bad?
However, one is also infested by the thoughts of food poisoning and might want to adhere to the “best before” period stated in some corner of the package. But is the “best before” period a specific indication of the end time of our beloved powder milk?
With the increasing processing of food products, milk is another item commonly consumed in processed form. Using milk powders is a convenient and feasible alternative to fresh milk because of its shelf life and a good travel companion.
Powdered milk is nothing but evaporated milk. Sucking out the moisture in most processed products means elongating its shelf life. So you come across a bag of powdered milk, sealed away in the corner of your pantry, thinking if indeed you can still use it?
Most powder milk shall come with a shelf life of a year or so. However, this is highly varied depending on the manufacturer, as we shall discuss below.
However, the dehydrated milk exhibits an average life span extending to that mentioned in the label. Therefore, you are all good to go in using a years-old packet of milk powder in all likelihood. There could be some diminishing taste or color; however, it is likely safe to consume.
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Shelf Life Of Powdered Milk
The shelf life of processed products is defined by variables such as average temperature conditions, moisture content, packaging, storage, and handling.
The packaging is a crucial element in determining the longevity of food products in keeping them away from moisture and temperature adversities. Packaging in the case of dairy products usually entails multi-layer packaging.
While most powdered milk manufacturers will suggest an 18-month shelf life for their respective products, it so happens that the powdered milk can sustain for a much more extended period than what is stated on the packets.
The “Best by” or “Use before” labels indicate an average or minimum time of the product to be of a decent quality.
Once opened, of course, the variables change, and so do the days until they can be safely consumed. Usually, 3-4 days is an ideal frame of time for consuming opened powdered milk.
The content of the powdered milk also determines the shelf life. There are some nonfat varieties of powder milk that have much longer durability. It is primarily because the fat component is less stable by nature.
In general, powder milk has a longer life span, extending months and years, if stored and used in the right conditions. These are estimates of the manufacturers and can thus vary from manufacturer to manufacturer depending on what they think is a safe margin for using the product without losing its original taste.
Therefore, you might come across some products carrying two years’ best before status and the eternal packets that guarantee as long as 25 years’ shelf life!
It is important to note that, like each product, powdered milk is bound to lose some of its qualities and properties over time. Consider, for example, the added vitamin D & A. Most dairy products, processed or fresh, are fortified with nutritional values that amp up the nutrition profile of the products.
However, over time, added preservatives, artificial flavoring, and nutrients will degrade, and eventually, there would be some loss of flavor. Thus, it is ideally recommended that one consume the powdered milk as early as possible to reap the full benefits of its nutritional value.
How To Prolong Shelf Life Of Powdered Milk
Dehydrated milk, by its very nature, will last you much longer. Storing in suitable conditions and environment means maintaining and extending the shelf life of products no matter how sensitive they can be.
Extreme or unsuitable conditions mean degradation in the quality and original taste of products. In general, exposure to air and moisture cause reactions in food products that alter their quality and other properties (Color change).
The science behind storing dry ingredients is pretty simple; A dry, cool, and dark place. A dry place will ensure that the powder does not come in contact with moisture. It is because the products are processed to suck out the moisture content.
Damp conditions are likely to alter the properties of the powder and render it spoiled. Thus, keeping it in air-tight and vacuum-like conditions is ideal. Once you open the package, it should be sealed tightly after usage. Once the powder is mixed with water, it should be consumed as early as possible. All of this is essential to ensure that the powdered milk does not form clumps.
A dark place is also considered essential to keep it away from exposure to sun or high-temperature conditions. The heat from the sun is bound to cause a reaction in all kinds of products. In some cases, it may activate certain compounds in processed products and thus spoil them earlier than estimated.
Therefore, a kitchen cabinet or refrigerator are all ideal storage places. Please do not keep it in cupboards near stoves, or ovens, or other heat sources. Keeping the milk powder frozen in the freezer is also an ideal choice because of the advantages of a cool place and one with minimum oxygen contact. Thus, storing the product at 0 degrees Fahrenheit is bound to protect it and make it fit to use for a long time.
Practicing the more general storage principles also goes a long way in preserving the milk powder’s shelf life. Hygiene is a crucial factor when it comes to food products and storage.
Keeping your products away from ant attacks or bacteria is ideal. Likewise, controlling pest attacks on your food items is essential. It is also crucial to ensure that you are not storing your food products with stale items, which might also quickly inflict damage on other products. Such items should be immediately discarded, and the pantry should be sanitized.
Another essential practice is to retain the original containers or packages of the food products. Alternatively, glass containers with tight lids are also an ideal option.
How To Know If Powdered Milk Has Gone Bad
Even though powdered milk has a longer shelf life than what is suggested on the packaging, these products are susceptible to being spoiled because of contact with water or air.
The temperature could be another possible factor for the degradation of the powdered milk. If the powder milk has come in contact with water, you will start noticing that your powder might have formed clumps. It is indicative that it is not wise to use powdered milk anymore.
Significant signs of the powdered milk going stale include discoloration and odor. The powder has likely been infested with water or pests. When milk powder goes bad, it usually turns a pale yellow color. It is an alarm that the product is no longer usable and should be immediately discarded.
Smell & taste is another factor. There are also chances that the power might give out a weird smell and taste. Finally, the powder could often be attacked by an army of ants, thus making it no longer fit to consume.
Thus, going by the label is not entirely a wise option, as your powder might be fit to consume. If it happens to be an ancient packet, consider using a small portion of it to mix with water.
An essential point of consideration is that if you administer powdered milk to babies, one might want to keep that safe margin to ensure that their toddlers don’t suffer from an upset tummy. Milk powders specially designed for babies need to be consumed before the expiry date.
The brand is another factor that is crucial in determining if you would like to go ahead with using a product that is past its “best before date.” For example, you might have some local sachets of milk powder, which is not a safe margin of guarantee. In that case, it is wise to consume them as early as possible.
Storing and handling food can be a tricky business. Especially with dairy products, it may call for added attention. You might always be wondering if at all you can consume packaged products beyond their ‘best before dates.
But as discussed above, these dates are more indicative than specific. One can safely consume these products if they are correctly stored. Cool, dry and dark conditions preserve the shelf life of products.
Freezing is one of the ideal ways to extend the shelf life. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to ascertain the exact shelf life of such items as multiple factors play in action.
Thus, it is not only the handling of the products by the consumers but also by the packagers in factories, stores, and transport units. As with all food products, make sure you inspect your products for any signs of degradation. Regular hygiene and careful handling are likely to ensure the longevity of the milk powder.