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If properly cared for, milk generally stays fresh for 2 to 3 days after the “sell by” date. For tips on preserving the safety and quality of milk, click here.

All milk intended for direct consumption should be pasteurized – it’s a matter of food safety. Pasteurization is a simple, effective method to kill potentially harmful bacteria without affecting the taste or nutritional value of milk. With standard pasteurization, milk is heated to a temperature of at least 161 degrees Fahrenheit for not less than 15 seconds, followed by rapid cooling.

Individuals and their actions at home play an important role in food safety. To help prevent food borne illness, food safety experts recommend the following four simple steps:

  • CLEAN: Wash hands and surfaces often with hot, soapy water.
  • SEPARATE: Don’t cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.
  • COOK: Cook to proper temperatures; don’t rely on color alone. Remember to use a food thermometer to check if food is done. Thorough cooking is the most important step in preventing food borne illness.
  • CHILL: Refrigerate promptly. Growth of harmful bacteria can be slowed or stopped by refrigeration or freezing. The refrigerator temperature should be kept at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The freezer should remain under zero degrees Fahrenheit at all times.

Yes. In fact, numerous safety measures are in place to help ensure that antibiotics don’t enter the milk supply. For example, a sick cow that is being treated with antibiotics is taken from the milking herd, treated and not put back into the herd until her milk tests free of antibiotics. Additionally, every tank load of milk is strictly tested for antibiotics. Any tanker that tests positive is disposed of immediately, never reaching the public.

All milk, including human breast milk, contains hormones that are digested just as other proteins are digested. While some cows are treated with hormones that are produced by biotechnology, known as recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), studies show there is no significant difference between milk from cows that receive hormones and cows that don’t.

The safety of milk from cows treated with rBST has been affirmed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), World Health Organization (WHO), American Medical Association (AMA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), American Dietetic Association (ADA) and regulatory agencies in 30 countries.

It’s great to have choices in the marketplace, but there is no difference in the safety or nutrition of organic dairy products compared with conventional dairy products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees national standards that food labeled “organic” must meet. According to USDA, organic food is not safer or more nutritious than conventionally-produced food. Organic food differs from conventionally-produced food in the way it is grown, handled, and processed. For more information on organic foods, refer to the USDA’s Certified Organic Program or American Council on Science and Health.

You can call the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service hotline. You also can refer to the government website