HELENA — Grab that jug of milk from your fridge and take a look at it. You should see two dates stamped on it.
The top date is the “sell-by” or “pull-buy” date. Under Montana regulation, this date is 12 days after the milk was pasteurized.
The date of pasteurization should be on the second line, below the sell-by date.
If stores haven’t sold the milk by the sell-by or pull-by date, they are required to remove the milk from their coolers and dispose of it.
However, jugs of milk from Darigold, which Core-Mark imports to Montana to some convenience stores and groceries, have a different date-stamping system.
The top date on Darigold milk is a sell-by date that is the last date for milk to be be sold outside of Montana. It’s more than a week later than the Montana sell-by date, which is listed below the out-of-state sell-by date.
Contrary to what some people think, the sell-by date is not an expiration date.
Milk can still be good after the sell-by date, but Christian Mackay, executive officer of the Board of Livestock, said there is no consensus among research scientists about how long.
“It depends how the milk was handled by the distributor, retailer and consumer,” he said. “Did you leave it on the counter for two hours after you poured some on your cereal?”
But in general, milk should be good for 21 days after pasteurization, Mackay said.
But Pat Roylance of Butte, director of marketing for Sutey Oil, which operates Thriftway Super Stops, advocates getting rid of the 12-day sell-by date in part because it’s confusing to Montanans buying milk.
“For the average consumers, they think it is an expiration date,” she said. “When you tell them it’s not an expiration date, they’re surprised, shocked, angry. They’ve been dumping milk for years (after the sell-by date). We’re all taught you don’t eat something after the date.”