Dairy Food Safety and Storage Tips
Apr 03, 2023 (Westby, WI)
If spring cleaning the kitchen is on your to-do list, we have a few tips for getting the most shelf life out of your dairy products. First, let’s talk with Westby Creamery’s Quality Manager Jason Levendoski about the danger dairy products pose if not properly stored.
Q: What’s the health danger in eating unrefrigerated dairy such as cottage cheese?
A: Besides an unpleasant taste, bad bacteria may grow in the cottage cheese causing an adverse reaction in the stomach resulting in vomiting, cramping and/or diarrhea. The growth of the bad bacteria is greatly reduced (not eliminated) at temperatures below 45 degrees. It is recommended that all fresh dairy products be stored closer to the back of the refrigerator.
Q: How long can hard cheese sit out for before it’s unsafe to eat?
A: Hard cheese should only be kept out of refrigeration for about 4 hours. After this time, any bad bacteria on the cheese will have reproduced to an unsafe level. Most bacteria will double in population every 20 minutes at room temperature. It’s always best to hold cheese at refrigerated temperatures.
Q: Why is butter the exception, and how long can you leave that out?
A: Butter is high in fat – around 80 percent – which allows butter to sit out of refrigeration for about two days uncovered before developing any food safety or quality concerns. Bacteria prefer protein and carbohydrates as their food sources. With butter being high in fat and low in protein and carbohydrates, bacteria will not grow as quickly on butter as it does in milk.
Q: Is it true you can cut off mold from hard cheese and eat the unmolded part?
A: This is a very subjective question. For someone who is sensitive to mold, I would recommend not risking an adverse reaction to save a few dollars. However, due to the lower moisture content in hard cheeses like cheddar, colby and pepper jack, surface mold will not penetrate far into the block. Cutting off about an inch past the moldy part of block will be adequate in most cases and will allow the remaining cheese to be safe to eat.
Now that we know what to avoid, let’s get to the tips…
- Invest in dairy-saving tools to keep your purchases fresher for longer – including the Butterie butter storage container and Formaticum cheese storage bags – available at the Westby Creamery cheese store.
The Butterie is a flip-top butter dish that allows your butter to remain safe to consume for up to three weeks, according to its creators, Kitchen Concepts Unlimited. They worked with an ISO-17025 accredited food safety lab and tested a wide variety of butters for yeast, mold, bacteria and rancidity. The butter, which was kept at room temperature (68-78°) for 21 days and inspected under a microscope, was fine. Or as the lab reported, of “good microbial quality.” It can even hold two sticks at a time!
Formaticum cheese storage bags protect your opened cheeses with non-porous materials that help keep its intended flavors, meaning you will not have to worry about your cheese tasting like plastic. Using these bags instead of plastic wrap or tinfoil creates the same enjoyable experience the second time around and allows the cheese to breathe without drying it out.
- Find Westby Creamery’s squeezable sour cream pouch at your local grocer.
With a squeezable sour cream pouch you can avoid some of the dangers listed earlier in this story. It’s entirely enclosed so you won’t have sour cream sitting out and collecting bacteria by the minute. Plus, it’s a more convenient and cleaner option without the need for utensils.
- Keep dairy products towards the back of your fridge.
Products closer to the door tend to waver in temperatures throughout the day as you open and close your fridge to make meals or grab snacks. Placing dairy items towards the back helps ensure its temperature remains below 45 degrees to fight off bad bacteria so you can enjoy your cottage cheese or French onion dip for longer.
Westby Cooperative Creamery dairy products are widely distributed in the Upper Midwest. To find a store near you, visit our store locator and enter your zip code. Or, shop our online store and get it delivered straight to your front door.