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I'm looking for a word to describe milk that has not "gone off".

Does "on" or "viable" work?

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5 Answers

When milk has not gone bad (become spoiled), the word I invariably hear is "good," as in "the milk's still good," or simply "the milk's good." (People also say, "It hasn't gone bad," but that doesn't utilize the word you're looking for.)

The same statement, the milk is good, can also be used as a statement of the milk's quality, and people know which one you mean simply by context and circumstances. (Another way of distinguishing this other use of good is that when we say the milk is of high quality, we have a tendency to phrase it differently, thus: that (instead of the) milk is good or that's good milk.)

Edit because I forgot to answer your second question: I don't consider "on" or "viable" to be viable options in the least. :)

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I think "still good" is the least ambiguous. –  Nick Apr 17 '13 at 5:30
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Potable is the formal general term. Drinkable is the standard everyday synonym.

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Doesn't that apply pretty much just to water? I've never heard of 'potable milk'. –  Mitch Jun 25 '13 at 23:32
    
@Mitch That was my immediate thought, but it's not what the linked definition says! –  TrevorD Jun 26 '13 at 0:22
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Milk that is not off in any way is fresh. If the taste or smell is off, then it's no longer fresh.

However, thanks to pasteurization and refrigeration, we are able to enjoy milk that is virtually fresh even though has been in storage for many days.

Though milk that has been refrigerated for some days may still be hard to distinguish by taste from its condition when it was just bought, the word fresh does not apply.

A pattern for expressing the condition of perishable goods is [number-]{day|week|month}- old.

  • Bread that was baked yesterday is day-old bread.
  • Milk in the fridge that still tastes good might be three-day-old milk or week-old milk, and so forth.

"This week-old milk is still perfectly drinkable; there isn't even a hint of any off taste to indicate the onset of spoilage."

Whether or not such a designation refers to something that is spoiled depends on the quantity of time and our understanding of how sensitive that commodity is to spoilage. If someone speaks of three-week-old milk, the understanding is that the milk is bad, but there is no such assumption about three-day-old milk.

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It seems to me that "fresh" is more of an indicator that it was recently produced. In the next few days after it was just produced, milk is usually not bad or spoiled, but it is no longer fresh. At a certain point, it can be considered "stale," even without being spoiled. Therefore, "fresh" doesn't quite qualify as meaning "not spoiled." It means, instead, "not old" or "not stale." (You're taking "off" to mean "not fresh," but the OP is using "gone off" to mean "spoiled.") –  John M. Landsberg Apr 17 '13 at 5:45
    
I anticipated that objection. However it is only modern (or not so modern any more, rather) advancements like pasteurization and refrigeration which let us enjoy milk which is several days old, yet basically fresh. You only know that it's not new milk from the expiry date, or from remembering when it was bought. In a double blind taste test, you wouldn't know the difference. If you did know the difference, then it would be by detecting a funny taste: the milk has "gone off". –  Kaz Apr 17 '13 at 5:50
    
But you're essentially agreeing with me when you say that "fresh" means "not funny tasting," because "funny tasting" is not necessarily spoiled. Again, the OP is not intending "off" to mean merely "not fresh;" he is employing the well known usage of "off" to mean "bad" or "sour." I just don't see how "fresh" qualifies as the opposite of "bad." As for the flavor of milk, it does change over time. Even without refrigeration, milk can last about three days, and during that time you can certainly detect changes that mean it's not fresh, prior to it spoiling. –  John M. Landsberg Apr 17 '13 at 6:03
    
@JohnM.Landsberg Forgive me to adding more confusion to the debate, but in the Australian food service industry, the term "spoiled" means "altered in a way that renders it unfit for public sale or presentation" - not necessarily "off" in the sense of having active bacterial colonies. Banana that's gone brown, for instance, might be completely safe to eat, but would be considered spoiled by this definition. –  user867 Apr 18 '13 at 1:30
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Unspoilt. A bit poetic maybe, but the least ambiguous.

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The opposite of sour milk is sweet milk. I think this term was routinely used a hundred years ago, but nowadays I don't think many people would understand you when you say, "The milk's still sweet." See this excerpt from a book from 1914:

How to substitute sour milk for sweet milk or sweet milk for sour milk in any cake recipe

Either sour milk or buttermilk may be substituted for sweet milk. The resulting cake will be more tender than if made with sweet milk possibly because both the acid of the milk and the alkali of the baking soda dissolve some of the gluten of the flour If milk is just turned- that is is neither sweet nor sour- warm it a little above blood heat and let it stand in a warm place but do not scald it In a very short time it will be well soured.
If buttermilk or sour milk is substituted for sweet milk the following plan is advisable First neutralize the acidity of the liquid by stirring into it thoroughly a sufficient quantity of soda. Ordinarily this would be about one fourth of a teaspoonful of soda to one cupful of sour milk or buttermilk. Then add sufficient baking powder to make the cake light This plan is better in most cases than to use soda alone Thus: One fourth of a teaspoonful of soda used with sour milk is equivalent to about one teaspoonful of baking powder; so that if a recipe using one cupful of sweet milk calls for three teaspoonfuls of baking powder and sour milk is used in place of the sweet milk one fourth of a teaspoonful of soda and two teaspoonfuls of baking powder will be required for the cake.

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Point of clarification: milk that has "gone sweet" is milk that is nearly spoiled. It tastes weirdly sweet the day before it goes bad! –  Nick Apr 17 '13 at 5:29
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