Sweetened Condensed Milk Question

Here’s a story that might surprise you, as it did me. My neighbour asked me how long a can of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk lasts for.

I told her that I remember watching the show “Unwrapped” on the Food Network and they were doing a segment on Eagle Brand. I’m sure I heard the guy from Eagle Brand mention that it had a shelf life of 2 years.

My neighbour begs to differ. She says that since it states on the can “Product naturally thickens and turns caramel colour with age without affecting performance. Store in a cool, dry place. Refrigerate after opening.”, that it’s still good. She bought the cans in December 1999 !!! That’s 6 years ago!!!

She says all she has to do is cook it and it will be good as new. I opened the can and the milk is BROWN. She says there’s no smell, but I find that there’s a “hint” of sourness when you smell it. She says, it’s brown because it turned into caramel and is still good.

She’s a very STUBBORN woman and refuses to believe anything I say about this (don’t know why she asked me in the first place! LOL). So she’s agreed to go along with whatever you say.

So…after 6 YEARS, is a can of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk that looks BROWN, is solid, has a “hint” of a sour smell, still good to cook with?

You’re the judge and jury! LOL

You’ve got to be kidding!!! I wouldn’t feed any food (or dairy) product that was 6 years old to my worst enemy much less someone I liked.

If your friend does decide to use it and offers you a taste of whatever it was used in, run for the hills or at least have your local emergency room on standby with a stomach pump.

Seriously, having a friend who is a registered dietician/kitchen manager (for a major hospital) and all the rigorous training for food safety they go through, has made me mend my ways using food past its expiration date or anything (medicine included) that is out of date. You wouldn’t believe the horror stories.

Tell your friend not just no but HECK NO!!!

LOL Pat! I emailed Eagle Brand and will show her their email. I sent them the product date code. Can’t wait to see their reaction! LOL

From my notes - I know we are talking abour Eagle Brand - but this may help you to understand codes:

Canned evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk may be stored at room temperature for 12 to 23 months. Opened canned milk should be refrigerated and consumed within 8 to 20 days.

Carnation Foods deciphered their evaporated milk stamps–
example: 4145MC 202S. The only thing important lies in the first four digits. The 4 stands for 1994, the year the milk was packed. The 14 represents the 14th day of…the 5, the 5th month, May of the year. This can was packed May 14, 1994. The rest of the letters and digits represent plant and lot numbers.

FIPS Numerical Code for States

State FIPS Code Number
Alabama 01
Alaska 02
Arizona 04
Arkansas 05
California 06
Colorado 08
Connecticut 09
Delaware 10
District of Columbia 11
Florida 12
Georgia 13
Hawaii 15
Idaho 16
Illinois 17
Indiana 18
Iowa 19
Kansas 20
Kentucky 21
Louisiana 22
Maine 23
Maryland 24
Massachusetts 25
Michigan 26
Minnesota 27
Mississippi 28
Missouri 29
Montana 30
Nebraska 31
Nevada 32
New Hampshire 33
New Jersey 34
New Mexico 35
New York 36
North Carolina 37
North Dakota 38
Ohio 39
Oklahoma 40
Oregon 41
Pennsylvania 42
Puerto Rico 43
Rhode Island 44
South Carolina 45
South Dakota 46
Tennessee 47
Texas 48
Utah 49
Vermont 50
Virginia 51
Washington 53
West Virginia 54
Wisconsin 55
Wyoming 56

Example: 37-275, 37 indicates processing plant is located in North Carolina. 275 identifies a plant within the State.
It is recommended that the part of the code indicating the State or origin always consist of two digits followed by a hypen; for example, 05- or 48.

This may also be of interest:

Closed Or Coded Dates are packing numbers for use by the manufacturer. Tip 3 gives some clues that may help crack the code on canned foods. However, there is no standardized coding system used for foods. It may be necessary to call, write or visit the Web site of the company to help determine whether these foods are safe and/or of best quality to eat.

There is no uniform coding system used on canned foods. Some may be as specific as day, month and year of production while others only may give the year. Others might include specific plant manufacturing or product information. The most likely spot for this information is the top or bottom of the can.

The Canned Food Alliance gives these tips to help interpret some coding:
“For month coding, if a number is used, numbers 1 through 9 represent January through September, and letters O for October, N for November and D for December. If letters are used, A=January and L=December, unless otherwise noted. For year coding, 8=1998; 9=1999; 0=2000; 1=2001; 2=2002, etc.”

Information isn’t given in the same order by all companies – for example, some may give the year first, some the month. Others may list information that has nothing to do with dating first.
Sometimes, rather than a specific day of a month, the “Julian date” or day of the year is given --for example, January 1 would be “1” and February 1 would be “32.” These two illustrations by the Canned Food Alliance show how this might work:

* Can code: 2061 (February 6, 2001); 2=month, 06=date, 1=year
* Can code: 0195 (July 14, 2000); 0=year, 195=Julian date -- July 14th is the 195th day of the year

As a general guideline, the Canned Food Alliance recommends eating canned food within two years of PROCESSING for best quality. Many cans will include a “for best quality use by” date stamped somewhere on the can. In a well run and busy store there should be a fairly constant turnover of canned goods, with cans on the shelf only a short time before you purchase them, according to the Canned Food Alliance

READ LABELS CAREFULLY when purchasing food for usage dates.

  1. Keep a permanent marker pen in your kitchen and put the date, month and YEAR you purchased the food on the container.
  2. Practice “first in, first out,” or what foodservice professionals refer to as FIFO, for foods. If you have purchased several containers of the same type of food, arrange the containers so you reach for the oldest package first.
  3. If you tossed portions of expired foods, buy a smaller container or fewer packages next time.
  4. If you can’t use a perishable food by the expiration date, freeze it. A food kept frozen at 0 F will be safe indefinitely although it will decrease in quality with time.

Here is a partial list:

Reading Can Codes

Each canned food manufacturer has a unique coding system. Some manufacturers list day, month and year of production, while other companies reference only the year. These codes are usually imprinted on the top or bottom of the can. Other numbers may appear and reference the specific plant manufacturing or product information and are not useful to consumers. Below is a sampling of how some manufacturers code their products so consumers know when the product was packaged. If you have specific questions about a company’s product, contact a customer service representative at the phone number listed.

Note: For month coding, if a number is used, numbers 1 through 9 represent January through September, and letters O for October, N for November and D for December. If letters are used, A=Jan. and L=Dec., unless otherwise noted.

Note: For year coding, 8=1998; 9=1999; 0=2000; 1=2001; 2=2002, etc.

Bush Brothers & Company (voice) 865-509-2361
Four digits
Position 1: Month
Position 2 and 3: Day
Position 4: Year
Example: 2061 (February 6, 2001)

Chiquita Processed Foods (voice) 800-872-1110
Ten digits (only 6-8 are pertinent to consumers)
Position 6: Year (A=1999, B=2000, C=2001, etc.)
Position 7 and 8: Julian Date
Example: A195 (July 14, 1999 - July 14 is the 195th day of the year)

Del Monte Foods (voice) 800-543-3090
First line, four digits
Position 1: Year
Position 2, 3 and 4: Julian Date
Example: 9045 (February 14, 1999)

Faribault Foods
Consumers can send inquiries and product coding numbers via an online contact form at the Faribault Foods Web Site, and a company representative will help them understand the coding.

Furman Foods (voice) 877-877-6032
Second line, first four digits
Position 1: Year
Position 2, 3 and 4: Julian Date
Example: 9045 (February 14, 1999)

Hirzel Canning (voice) 800-837-1631
First line, four digits
Position 1: Year
Position 2, 3 and 4: Julian Date
Example: 0195 (July 14, 2000- July 14th is the 195th day of the year)

Hormel Foods Corporation (voice) 800-523-4635
Five digits on the top line
Position 1-4: Information about plant and manufacturing
Position 5: Year
Example: XXXX0 (2000)

Lakeside Foods (voice) 920-684-3356
Second line, second through fifth digits
Position 2: Month (January=1, September=9, October=A, November=B, December=C)
Position 3 and 4: Date
Position 5: Year
Example: 4A198 (October 19, 1998)

Maple Leaf Consumer Foods (voice) 800-268-3708
Top of can, grouping of last four digits
Position 1: Year
Position 2,3, and 4: Julian Date
Example: 9130 (May 9, 1999)

Mid-Atlantic Foods (voice) 410-957-4100
Second through fourth digits
Position 2: Month (letter)
Position 3: Date (A=1, Z=26)
Position 4: Year
Example: MDE0 (April 5, 2000)

Pillsbury/Green Giant and Progresso
(voice) 800-998-9996
Five digits
Position 1: Month (letter)
Position 2: Year
Position 3: Plant information
Position 4 and 5: Date
Example: G8A08 (July 8, 1998)

Seneca Foods (voice) 315-926-6710
Two digits on the first line
Position 1: Month (letter)
Position 2: Year
Example: L1 (December 2001)

Stagg Chili (voice) 800-611-9778
Second through sixth digits
Position 2 and 3: Month
Position 4 and 5: Day
Position 6: Year
Example: S02050 (February 5, 2000)

Vietti Foods
First line, five digits
Position 1: Month (letter)
Position 2 and 3: Date
Position 4: Code for product type
Position 5: Year
Example: E02D2 (May 2, 2002)

After digging a little further - this is from Eagle Brands -

How to Read Date Code
Located on the bottom of the can is a production date code. An example code would read P2174A*S1. The ?P? indicates production code. The next number ?2? indicates the last digit in year. The next series of numbers ?174? indicate the day in the year your can was filled and sealed. The remaining letters/numbers identifies the plant. The sample code was produced on the 174th day of 2002. Eagle Brand® has a 24-month shelf life from this date. NOTE: All products made after January 2004 contain a ?best used by? date stamped on each item.

I hope this will help your friend!

Don’t be too hard on your neighbor. My husband never wants to throw anything away and always says “It’s OK!!” We eat left-overs that most other people wouldn’t touch…lol…I think it has made me have an iron clad constitution…I have to admit, I would never serve anything to family or guests that wasn’t super fresh…or in the case of cans new; however, I have used kind of cream colored sweetened condensed milk ( it was also a little thicker than the new stuff) and I never had a problem. I would only do this for my husband and myself, but didn’t really notice any difference in the outcome of the final product. Again I would never use it for company.
Dainty Dish

According to Eagle Brand Canada, the cans were purchased in 1997 and 1998. LOL Unreal!!! I saw her throw the cans out, although it did seem to pain her a little…hehehe too funny!

Hi Aline,
This is what i was told about it i hope this helps.
It’s natural for some products to change slightly in color, consistency and flavor when stored for long periods. As sweetened condensed milk ages, it progressively caramelizes, meaning that it gets darker and more caramel colored. This does not mean that the product is spoiled or presents any health hazard. If the sweetened condensed milk becomes unusually thick, stir briskly before using. For best results, store the product in a cool, dry place and use before the date stamped on the metal lid of each can.
[FONT=Arial]We do not recommend using the product after the 2 year shelf life. We recommend using before the “best used by” date stamped on the can. We hope this information helps! skyEyz_7[/FONT]

Your neighbor must be related to my FIL. He goes to the salvage grocery stores and buys stuff that is “WAY” past it’s prime and tries to give it to us. No way. My family doesn’t have the emergency room/morturary on speed dial. Food poisoning is not a pretty site, so, as they say Buyer (or User in this case) Beware. In cases like this, I’m not sure who is at fault, the seller, buyer or victim (excuse me) unknowing consumer. Sure would hate to think that I had accidently made someone sick. Wonder if your homeowner’s policy would cover a trip to the ER if your guest suddenly became ill (LOL)???

At least you made a believer out of your neighbor!