How long can yogurt sit out? Yogurt is a dairy product (made from milk) and it is perishable. Leaving it at room temperature for too long can cause bacteria to rapidly multiply causing the product to spoil. There is a myth that yogurt will not spoil because the milk is already fermented and it already contains bacteria. While the points about fermentation and bacteria are true, unfortunately, yogurt will expire at some point. Spoilage will occur if yogurt is left at room temperature for too long or kept in the refrigeration well past its expiration date.
How Long Can Yogurt Sit Out?
How long yogurt can be unrefrigerated depends on the room temperature. According to the U.S Department of Heath & Human Services, yogurt should be discarded after two hours of sitting out at room temperature between 41 °F and 90 °F. However, if the temperature exceeds 90 °F, yogurt can sit outside the refrigerator for no longer than one hour. These same recommendations apply to other dairy products as well, such as milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, and eggnog.
The above government recommendations of one and two hours at room temperature are too conservative to some. People claim that they take unopened yogurt to work or school and let it sit out for 4-6 hours before lunch. Most people claim that they haven’t had a problem with illness after years of doing this. We have even heard of people eating yogurt left out overnight without repercussions.
Dangers of Eating Unrefrigerated Yogurt
Food spoilage should be taken very seriously because eating a tainted product can cause serve illness or even death. Foodborne illness may be more prevalent in the United States than you might have expected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that 48 million (1 in 6) people get sick from a foodborne illness each year. Additionally, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 people die, per estimates. Signs of food poisoning may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, cramps, weakness/fatigue, headaches, dizziness, sweating, and vision problems.
Please see our article on signs of yogurt spoilage for information on how to tell when yogurt has expired.