Orange juice is a breakfast staple for many people. A glass of OJ not only provides a burst of vitamin C and folate, but it’s an easy and tasty way to get some fruit first thing in the morning. But what happens if you accidentally drink orange juice past its expiration date? Can expired orange juice make you sick?
How Long Does Orange Juice Last?
The shelf life of orange juice depends on a few factors:
- Container type – Juice in cartons or plastic bottles will last 5-7 days after opening. Juice in glass bottles or cans will last 3-4 weeks after opening due to less exposure to oxygen.
- Pasteurization – Unpasteurized orange juice lasts only about 5-7 days after opening. Pasteurized OJ lasts 2-3 weeks.
- Added preservatives – Juices with preservatives like vitamin C and citric acid have a longer shelf life of 4-6 weeks.
Generally, unopened orange juice stored in the refrigerator is good for:
|Orange juice type||Refrigerator shelf life unopened|
|Pasteurized orange juice||7-10 days after printed date|
|Not pasteurized orange juice||5-7 days after printed date|
|Concentrate orange juice||1-2 months after printed date|
|Frozen orange juice||1 year after printed date|
So an unopened carton of OJ should be consumed within 5-10 days of the printed expiration date, depending on the type. Once opened, the clock starts ticking and you have less than a week to finish it.
What Happens When Orange Juice Expires?
So what exactly happens when orange juice is past its prime?
First, the vitamin C content starts decreasing rapidly. An unopened carton of OJ will lose about 20% of its vitamin C every month. An opened carton will lose vitamin C content even faster.
The acidity of the juice also starts increasing over time. This affects both the taste and nutritional value. Expired OJ will taste more bitter and acidic.
If the orange juice has been kept too long, mold may start growing inside the packaging. This is more likely with unpasteurized juice or juice in clear containers. Mold will show up as fuzzy spots or cloudiness floating in the juice.
Bacteria can also start multiplying once the juice is expired, especially if the package has been frequently opened and exposed to oxygen.
Can Expired Orange Juice Make You Sick?
So can drinking expired orange juice actually make you sick? Here’s a look at the risks:
Vitamin C Loss
While vitamin C loss affects the nutrition you get from expired orange juice, it won’t cause illness on its own. You may just miss out on the benefits of vitamin C like immune support and antioxidant functions.
Consuming moldy orange juice could potentially make you sick. Mold can cause allergic reactions or respiratory irritation in some people. Some types of common food molds like Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Fusarium are also toxic producers.
However, the amount of mold present is unlikely to be dangerous unless the orange juice is extensively contaminated and spoiled. Any mold will be visible as fuzziness in the juice, so you can avoid consuming any moldy portions.
Bacteria are the biggest concern with expired orange juice. The bacteria that multiply as the juice expires can potentially cause foodborne illnesses.
|Salmonella||Salmonellosis||Diarrhea, fever, cramps|
|Listeria monocytogenes||Listeriosis||Fever, muscle aches, nausea|
|Escherichia coli||E. coli infection||Bloody diarrhea, vomiting|
|Clostridium botulinum||Botulism||Paralysis, breathing issues|
However, these risks are quite low for pasteurized store-bought orange juice kept refrigerated. Pasteurization kills most bacteria, and refrigeration prevents rapid growth.
Unpasteurized juice poses a higher risk, as it hasn’t been heated to kill bacteria. For people with compromised immune systems like the elderly, pregnant women, and young children, even pasteurized juice may be risky when expired.
How to Tell if Orange Juice Has Gone Bad
Watch out for these signs that indicate your orange juice is spoiled and could make you sick:
– **Change in color** – Fresh OJ should be bright orange. As it expires, the color fades to a dull yellow or brown.
– **Clumps or particles** – Bacteria and mold will create stringy clumps or specks floating in the juice.
– **Foul smell** – Expired juice will start smelling ‘off’ – you’ll notice an unpleasant sour, fermented odor.
– **Fizzy texture** – Carbonation bubbles or a fuzzy texture means fermentation has started.
– **Mold** – Look closely to see if there are signs of fuzzy green or white mold.
– **Slimy texture** – The juice will get thicker and slimier as bacteria grow.
– **Taste** – Rancid or bitter taste means the juice has turned.
If you notice any of these warning signs, it’s best to err on the side of caution and toss the OJ. While it likely won’t make you violently ill, drinking expired juice that tastes or smells funny can still give you an upset stomach.
How to Store Orange Juice Properly
To get the most shelf life out of your orange juice and avoid food safety issues, follow these storage guidelines:
– Refrigerate orange juice at 40°F or below after purchase and between use. Proper refrigeration inhibits bacteria growth.
– Drink refrigerated orange juice within 5-7 days of opening. Don’t let it sit in the fridge for weeks after opening.
– Check the use-by date and don’t purchase juice that has passed it.
– Inspect juice before drinking. Look for changes in color, odor, appearance that may indicate spoilage.
– Keep orange juice packages sealed tightly. Each time you open the container, you expose the juice to more air which speeds up spoilage.
– Store juice in opaque containers. Clear glass or plastic exposes OJ to light that degrades nutrients and flavor.
– Freeze extra juice in airtight containers. Frozen OJ concentrate will keep for about 1 year.
Can You Save Expired Orange Juice?
Is it possible to salvage OJ that’s just barely expired? Here are some methods that may work:
– **Boil it** – Heating expired juice to 185°F for 1 minute kills bacteria. This won’t help if the juice is moldy or extensively spoiled though.
– **Add citric acid** – Adding a pinch of citric acid partially restores the acidic pH and flavor.
– **Dilute it** – Watering down the expired juice helps temper the bitter taste. Add water or seltzer and extra sugar or honey.
– **Freeze it** – Freezing stops additional spoilage. The juice may retain its quality for use in smoothies or cooking.
However, saving expired juice is risky if you aren’t absolutely sure how long it’s been in the fridge or if it has any signs of spoilage. Your safest bet is to discard orange juice a few days after opening.
What About Other Fruit Juices?
The same general shelf life and safety guidelines apply to other common fruit juices like apple, grape, pineapple, and tomato. Because the pH, sugar content, and processing methods vary for different juices, exact shelf lives will differ.
Some fruit juices last 1-2 weeks after opening, while others may stay fresh for 1 month. Again, pasteurization and refrigeration are key for maximizing shelf life.
While drinking expired fruit juice likely won’t make you severely sick unless contaminated with extensive mold or bacteria, you may experience mild stomach upset or digestive issues. Your best bet is sticking to juice within the recommended expiry timeframe.
So can expired OJ make you sick? While drinking orange juice a few days past its prime likely won’t cause major illness in most healthy people, it can definitely cause upset stomach, nausea, or diarrhea. Once opened, orange juice only stays fresh about a week in the fridge.
To get the most from your OJ and avoid potential stomach issues, make sure to:
– Refrigerate promptly after opening
– Use within 5-7 days
– Check for signs of spoilage
– Don’t drink if expired, smells or looks ‘off’
Being cautious with storage and expiry dates helps ensure you safely enjoy the delicious taste and nutritional benefits of orange juice. Discarding expired juice batches at the first signs of deterioration can save you from potential tummy trouble down the line.