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Yes, sour cream can expire

Heymatt:

Why is there an expiration date on a container of sour cream? It’s already sour. How much more sour can it get? More sour sour cream doesn’t seem like a big problem. So, why the expiration date? I can eat no more nachos until you tell me.

— Rachel S., via email

Dig in, Rachel. The answer is right here on your plate. Commercial sour cream is made from pasteurized milk, which is relatively bacteria free. The manufacturer adds his own special bacteria to the milk to thicken it and turn it just the right degree of sour. Chilling it slows down the bacterial action, but the bugs are still alive. They’re still excreting bacterial juice, which is what gives the milk the sour taste. Left to their own devices, eventually the bacteria will overwhelm the milk and begin to be visible and make the sour cream taste pretty rancid. The expiration date gives you a rule-of-thumb guideline as to when this bad turn of events will begin. Extreme sour cream is not a pretty sight.

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Heymatt:

Why is there an expiration date on a container of sour cream? It’s already sour. How much more sour can it get? More sour sour cream doesn’t seem like a big problem. So, why the expiration date? I can eat no more nachos until you tell me.

— Rachel S., via email

Dig in, Rachel. The answer is right here on your plate. Commercial sour cream is made from pasteurized milk, which is relatively bacteria free. The manufacturer adds his own special bacteria to the milk to thicken it and turn it just the right degree of sour. Chilling it slows down the bacterial action, but the bugs are still alive. They’re still excreting bacterial juice, which is what gives the milk the sour taste. Left to their own devices, eventually the bacteria will overwhelm the milk and begin to be visible and make the sour cream taste pretty rancid. The expiration date gives you a rule-of-thumb guideline as to when this bad turn of events will begin. Extreme sour cream is not a pretty sight.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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