Refrigerate unopened packages of cream cheese between 35 and 40 degrees, and use opened packages within two weeks. Discard cream cheese if it has been left at room temperature for more than two hours or if mold is visible. When handling baked goods containing cream cheese frosting, follow the same refrigeration and handling guidelines as cream cheese.
While some cheeses are safe to consume even after mold has appeared, provided the mold has been cut off, cream cheese does not fall into this category because it is classified as a soft cheese. Mold spreads root-like growths called "hyphae" more easily through soft cheeses than through hard cheeses like cheddar. As a result, even if the moldy portion of the cream cheese is removed, the cheese is still not safe to eat.
Packages of cream cheese often display a "sell by" or "best if used by" date. This date is a guideline indicating how long the manufacturer expects the cheese to remain at optimum quality. However, the date is not a safety guideline. Cream cheese can typically be eaten after this date if it has been handled and stored properly.
Cream cheese is also safe for pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems to consume. This trait sets it apart from Brie, Camembert, feta, blue-veined cheeses and queso fresco.