What's the Difference: Sour Milk Vs. Spoiled Milk

There's a difference between sour and spoiled.

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If you love drinking fresh milk, you might have encountered spoiled milk before. Spoiled milk is literally milk that is no longer fresh. It's foul-smelling, is curdled, and if you drink enough of it, it can lead to foodborne illness. 

This is different from sour milk and should not be confused with the other kind of dairy product. Here are the major differences: 

1 Sour milk is made. Spoiled milk is made by accident. 

The biggest difference between sour milk and spoiled milk is that sour milk is basically still safe to consume. This is because whatever you added or was added by the producer to make it taste sour was intentional. This ingredient is edible, too, (and most likely sour in taste so you can make sour-tasting milk to use in your cooking or baking. This can be lemon juice, vinegar, a beneficial bacteria, or even another sour milk product. This is how homemade buttermilk and homemade sour cream substitutes are made. 

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However, spoiled milk is usually milk that was left out for too long or was opened and then stored incorrectly. This is the kind of milk that you'll see has clumped unintentionally, has turned yellow, has grown a skin, has mold, or otherwise smells off. If it doesn't smell like fresh milk when you open the container, it may be safe to say it's spoiled. 

It should be noted that expired milk is not the same as spoiled milk. Expired milk is milk that is past its best before date and is recommended to be disposed of. While it may not look or even taste as if it's spoiled, the benefits you expect may not be the same. 

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2 Sour milk can be used for baking recipes. Spoiled milk should be thrown out. 

Think of sour milk as like buttermilk or sour cream. Since it was intentionally soured, it should be used immediately after it has curdled and thickened. This is your intention of souring the milk. You can use this as a substitute for buttermilk, sour cream, or even yogurt in your baking recipes. 

However, if it was not your intention to thicken or curdle the milk and it's clumpy and curdled, it's likely spoiled. Toss it out. Spoiled milk is not safe to consume and should be thrown out.

What do you do if you accidentally took a sip or two? Don't worry. You probably spit it out so rinse and drink water to dilute any that you may have swallowed. The danger is if you have consumed a larger quantity of spoiled milk that you experience food poisoning or develop a foodborne illness.   

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