Can I drink cranberry juice if I left it out overnight?

Cranberry juice is a popular beverage enjoyed for its tart, refreshing flavor and potential health benefits. However, leaving cranberry juice out at room temperature overnight can allow bacteria to grow and spoil the juice. This raises the question: is it still safe to drink cranberry juice that has been left out overnight?

How Long Does Unopened Cranberry Juice Last at Room Temperature?

First, let’s consider how long unopened cranberry juice typically lasts at room temperature. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), unopened cranberry juice can be safely stored at room temperature for up to 1 week past the “best by” or “use by” date on the package.[1] However, once opened, cranberry juice will only last for about 7-10 days in the refrigerator before going bad.[2]

This shorter shelf life after opening is because exposure to oxygen and bacteria shortens the shelf life. So, while unopened cranberry juice can sit out for a week, opened cranberry juice should go into the refrigerator after opening.

How Does Cranberry Juice Spoil?

There are a few ways that cranberry juice can spoil:[3]

  • Growth of mold
  • Fermentation due to yeast production
  • Oxidation causing color and flavor changes

Growth of bacteria is the primary concern with leaving cranberry juice out overnight. Bacteria thrive at room temperature conditions, and if enough contaminate the juice, they can cause foodborne illness.

Risks of Drinking Spoiled Cranberry Juice

Drinking spoiled cranberry juice that has been left out overnight poses some risks:

  • Foodborne illness – Bacteria like Staphylococcus, Salmonella, Listeria or E. coli can contaminate the juice and cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, fever, and other symptoms if the juice is consumed.
  • Mold exposure – Mold can produce toxic compounds called mycotoxins. Ingesting these can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and liver damage.
  • Food intolerance – The fermentation process causes changes in the sugars, acids, and compounds in cranberry juice that can lead to indigestion, gas, bloating, and other gastrointestinal issues if consumed, even without actual spoilage.

How to Tell if Cranberry Juice Is Spoiled

Watch for these signs that cranberry juice has spoiled and is unsafe to drink:

Appearance Smell Taste
Cloudiness Rancid odor Bitter, unpleasant flavor
Fizzing bubbles Rotten egg odor Vinegar-like flavor
Mold growth Pungent sour smell Sharp, acidic taste
Change in color    

If you notice any of these signs in cranberry juice that has been left out overnight, it is best to be safe and discard it. The changed odor, texture, appearance and flavor are clear indicators the juice has spoiled and may contain harmful bacteria.

What About Refrigerated Cranberry Juice Left Out Overnight?

What if you accidentally left an opened bottle of refrigerated cranberry juice out on the counter overnight? Is it still safe to consume?

If the refrigerated juice was kept at a temperature below 40°F before being left out, it may still be safe to drink as long as it was left out for no more than 2 hours at room temperature. Once juices are refrigerated, it is best to consume them within 2 hours if left out at room temperature.[4]

However, if the juice was left out for longer than 2 hours, it is safest to discard the juice. With prolonged time spent in the danger zone temperature range between 40-140°F, bacteria can multiply quickly to dangerous levels that could make you sick if ingested.

Tips to Prevent Spoilage of Cranberry Juice

Here are some tips to avoid spoilage and safely store cranberry juice:

  • Refrigerate opened cranberry juice and use within 7-10 days.
  • Keep unopened cranberry juice in a cool, dark place and use within a week of the “best by” date.
  • Check juice bottles for signs of swelling or leakage, which can indicate fermentation.
  • Store juice bottles upright to prevent leakage.
  • Keep the cap tightened so oxygen can’t get in and spoil the juice.
  • Pour juice into a clean glass instead of drinking straight from the bottle to prevent contamination.
  • Wash hands before handling to prevent bacteria transfer.

Following proper storage methods and food safety principles can help prevent your cranberry juice from going bad too quickly.

Can Spoiled Cranberry Juice Make You Sick?

Yes, consuming spoiled cranberry juice that has been left unrefrigerated for too long can make you sick. The bacteria that grow in the juice can cause foodborne illness, with symptoms like:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps and diarrhea
  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Fatigue and muscle aches

Vulnerable groups like pregnant women, children, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for developing severe illness from spoiled juices. Staphylococcus, Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli and other pathogens can all grow in juice left out too long.[5]

Drinking spoiled cranberry juice can also cause food intolerance symptoms like indigestion, gas, bloating, and stomach cramps even without an actual foodborne illness. The changes in the quality of the juice make it harder to digest.

So it’s important to be vigilant about safety and only consume refrigerated cranberry juice within the recommended timeframe after opening. Discard any juice left out overnight to avoid getting sick.


In summary, it is not recommended to drink cranberry juice that has been left out on the counter overnight. Unrefrigerated, opened cranberry juice can quickly grow bacteria that can make you ill if consumed. Your safest bet is to properly store cranberry juice in the refrigerator after opening and discard any juice that has been left out for more than two hours. While tossing out a bottle of cranberry juice may seem wasteful, it’s a small price to pay to protect your health. When in doubt, remember it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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