Like all fresh dairy products, cream eventually spoils and becomes unsafe to eat. When cream is kept too long or is improperly stored, potentially harmful bacteria begin to grow in the container, producing an unpleasant smell and changes in texture. Avoid consuming spoiled cream by following a few guidelines.
Store It Properly
The recommended storage time for cream depends on how you store it. According to Colorado State University Extension, you can store cream, whether it’s heavy cream, light cream or half-and-half, in your refrigerator at 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit for one week. Keep cream in your freezer at 0 degrees F for three to four weeks. Keeping cream for longer than the recommended storage times increases the risk of spoilage and quality degradation.
Don't Leave It Out
Keep cream in the refrigerator or freezer until you're ready to use it. According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, cream kept out at temperatures above 40 F for more than two hours may be unsafe to eat. Place recently purchased cream in the refrigerator immediately to avoid exposure to room temperature. When cooking with cream, leave it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it and place it back in the refrigerator as soon as you are finished.
Phew! What's That Smell?
You can usually tell if your cream is spoiled simply by smelling it. In fact, the smell of spoiled cream can be so strong that you’ll know just by opening your refrigerator door. Cream also curdles and becomes chunky when spoiled, so pour some out in the sink to check it before cooking with it or serving it. Changes in color can also indicate spoilage; if your cream is any color other than white, don't eat it.
Get Rid of It
Dispose of spoiled cream by pouring it down the drain in your kitchen sink and running the water for 30 seconds to flush it. Additionally, you may want to pour some detergent down the drain to kill the bacteria and reduce odor. If you throw a full container of spoiled cream in the garbage, empty the trash immediately; the foul smell can overwhelm your entire house.