bowl of sour cream

How To Tell If Sour Cream Is Bad & How Long Does Sour Cream Last?

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If you have a tub of sour cream sitting in the fridge and you are wondering if it is still suitable to use, it is valuable for you to know how to tell if sour cream is bad, given that sour cream is a perishable food item. 

Indications that your sour cream has gone bad include sour cream that displays mold, has a pungent odor, or has become discolored. Sour cream can last anywhere between one to two weeks if stored in a refrigerator. Sour cream generally goes bad if it has been exposed to heat.

Let’s find out how long sour cream can potentially last, find out ways to prevent sour cream from going bad, explore signs that indicate if sour cream has gone bad to ensure that you know when it’s time to discard your sour cream tub.

How To Tell If Sour Cream Is Bad

bowl of sour cream on old wooden kitchen table, top view

Here are three ways for you to tell if your sour cream is bad:

Displaying Mold

The slightest hint of mold is a clear sign that your sour cream has gone bad. 

While you may be tempted to scoop the mold off the top of the sour cream, this is not advisable as it is likely that the mold has contaminated the sour cream that, which is being displayed through the mold on the surface.

If mold is present in your sour cream, it means that your sour cream is no longer suitable for consumption and will need to be disposed of.

Emitting An Off Odor

Sour cream generally has a fresh smell, with a slightly sour aroma. However, if the odor coming from your sour cream is regarded as rancid, stinky, or pungent in an unusual manner contrary to the general sour cream smell, then it’s safe for you to assume that the sour cream has gone bad.

While you might be tempted to taste the sour cream as you convince yourself that the name sour cream implies it should be sour, it is best rather to throw the tub of sour cream away to prevent any illnesses that may arise from eating sour cream that has gone bad. 

Discolored

Generally, if your sour cream has gone bad it will present yellow in color. However, bad sour cream is not limited to being yellow. 

If your sour cream is no longer white in color, then it is safe to assume that your sour cream has significant growth of fungi and bacteria and is no longer suitable for consumption. 

If your sour cream is discolored, it is best to throw away the discolored sour cream rather than take the risk of eating the discolored sour cream, as that can cause you to feel ill.

Causes Of Sour Cream Spoilage

Here are potential causes of sour cream spoilage and tips on what you will need to do in the event that your sour cream has gone bad.

Not Stored Properly

The longevity of sour cream is largely dependent on its storage. Sour cream needs to be stored in cool conditions, ideally within a refrigerator, in order to remain fresh. 

Therefore, it is not suitable to store sour cream in a pantry or leave it on the counter. Naturally, this implies that it is most certainly not appropriate to leave sour cream in the sun. 

If sour cream is exposed to temperatures above 40 F, the sour cream is likely to spoil.

Left Out At An Event

If a sour cream tub has been placed on a food table at an event for more than two hours, this will result in the bacteria multiplying to an extent where the sour cream is no longer suitable for consumption. 

Apart from the fact that the sour cream has been exposed to heat, it is also likely that people have used dirty utensils and potentially double dipped in the sour cream. If this is the case, it is almost certain that the sour cream will become contaminated due to its exposure to other food substances.

If the sour cream has been left on display for more than two hours, you will need to throw the sour cream tub away. 

Stored In Refrigerator While Power Has Gone Off

If the power in your home has been off for longer than four hours, this implies that your refrigerator has not been able to fulfill its cooling function for four hours. Keeping sour cream cool is an important factor in ensuring that the sour cream bacteria do not excessively multiply.

If your power has been off for longer than four hours, the refrigerator will have lost any residual coolness that may have been keeping the sour cream cool and is likely to have caused the sour cream to be in an environment where the temperature is approximate to room temperature. 

Leaving your sour cream in a refrigerator that is no longer cool can be equated to leaving it out of the refrigerator and storing it at room temperature. In this regard, if your power has been off for an extended period that exceeds four hours, then you can most likely assume that your sour cream has gone bad and will need to be disposed of.

Dirty Utensils Contaminating Sour Cream

Using utensils that are dirty in the sense that they contain remnants of other food particles on them can result in contamination of the sour cream.

Sour cream that is exposed to remnants of other food substances is likely to go bad as the bacteria in the sour cream will be altered once it is exposed to the new food substance.

If you notice a biscuit crumb in the sour cream tub, it’s worth a shot to try to scoop it out before it contaminates the tub, but don’t be surprised if the tub goes bad shortly after. The bacteria in sour cream tubs are exceptionally sensitive and react to even the slightest interaction with other substances.

To prevent your sour cream from being contaminated, make sure to use clean utensils each time you take a scoop of sour cream from the tub.

How Long Does Sour Cream Last?

bowl of sour cream on white wooden table

Opened or unopened sour cream can last for up to two weeks after its sell-by date, provided it is stored in a refrigerator. 

In terms of the Food Marketing Institute’s consumer guide to food quality and safe handling, a seven to 21-day window is estimated as being a reasonable time for sour cream to last as long as it has been stored in a refrigerator at 40 F.

However, the shelf life of sour cream can be significantly shorted if it has not been handled adequately. If the sour cream was left at room temperature at any point, this might cause the sour cream to go bad as sour cream needs to remain in a cool environment to stay suitable for consumption.

Even though you may take caution and adequately store your sour cream in the refrigerator when you get home from the store, this does not guarantee whether the sour cream was stored in a cool environment when the manufacturer or vendor handled it. Therefore, knowing how to tell if sour cream has gone bad is important in preventing you from consuming sour cream that has gone bad.

How To Prevent Sour Cream From Going Bad?

bowl of sour cream on grey surface, top view

Here are three sour cream prevention tips to help ensure your sour cream does not go bad.

Refrigerate Your Sour Cream

The easiest way to prevent your sour cream from going bad is to ensure that your sour cream is stored in a cool area like a refrigerator at approximately 40 F. 

By refrigerating your sour cream, you are preventing the bacteria in the sour cream from multiplying to the extent where the bacteria is able to take over the sour cream. 

When it comes to sour cream, prevention is the only option as there is no cure. Once your sour cream has gone bad, you have no choice but to discard it as failure to discard your sour cream and subsequently consuming it can result in illnesses. 

Use Clean Utensils When You Dish From The Sour Cream Tub

When dishing from the sour cream, dirty utensils can contaminate the sour cream, causing it to go bad. 

While it may seem perfectly harmless to use the butter knife to scoop up some sour cream, given that they are both used as spreads, it can, in fact, be detrimental to the sour cream if it is mixed with another substance as this adds new bacteria to the batch.

It is best practice to rather use clean utensils every time you dish some sour cream from the tub. 

Using new clean utensils each time you scoop from the tub ensures that there are no substances being mixed with the sour cream that could alter the bacteria in the sour cream in a manner that could cause the sour cream to go bad.

Check The Relevant Dates On The Sour Cream Tub

The “sell-by,” “best if used-by,” and “use-by” dates on the packaging of sour cream tubs provide clear timelines regarding when the sour cream is suitable for consumption provided it has been stored in a cool environment.

When it comes to the “sell-by” date, this date informs the store as to how long the sour cream should be on display. As a consumer, you should buy the sour cream before the “sell-by” date.

On the other hand, the “best if used-by” date indicates the latest date at which the sour cream will be of the best taste and highest quality.

Finally, the “use-by” date indicates the last upon which the sour cream should be consumed.

While the sour cream is likely to still be suitable for consumption after the “sell-by” date and “best if used-by” date has passed, it is unlikely that the sour cream will be suitable for consumption if the “use-by” date has passed, even if it has been stored in a refrigerator.

Potential Consequences of Eating Sour Cream That Has Gone Bad

Here are potential consequences that might ensue if you consume sour cream that has gone bad:

Nausea

Eating sour cream that has gone bad can cause extreme stomachaches and nausea. If you suspect that you have consumed sour cream that has gone bad, consider getting over-the-counter nausea pills to ease nausea and potentially any painkillers if necessary.

Diarrhea

Eating sour cream that is no longer suitable for consumption may result in one experiencing diarrhea. 

If you suspect that you are experiencing diarrhea because you ate sour cream that may have gone bad, then it is advisable that you keep up your liquids and acquire anti-diarrhea pills from your local drug store.

If the diarrhea persists, it is best to consult a doctor. 

Induce Vomiting

Eating sour cream that has gone bad can result in vomiting. 

If you believe that you may be vomiting because you potentially consumed sour cream that was bad, then it may be valuable to get nausea tablets to calm your stomach. 

Enquire whether there are any other tablets that may help alleviate your discomfort and remember to keep up your liquids, as you want to avoid becoming dehydrated. 

If you continue to experience vomiting, it is best to consult a doctor. 

So, How To Tell If Sour Cream Is Bad & How Long Does Sour Cream Last?

Sour cream that has gone bad will often have a pungent odor, be discolored, or display mold. While sour cream can generally last for up to two weeks, if it is exposed to heat, it will go bad. 

If you suspect that your sour cream has gone bad, it is best to throw out the tub as consumption of sour cream that has gone bad can cause illnesses, including nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.


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