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Can I get sick from drinking spoiled almond milk?


Almond milk has become a popular plant-based milk alternative in recent years. However, like regular dairy milk, almond milk does eventually spoil. Consuming spoiled almond milk can potentially make you sick. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how almond milk spoils, the signs of spoiled almond milk, the potential health risks of drinking spoiled almond milk, and how to properly store almond milk to extend its shelf life.

How does almond milk spoil?

Almond milk is made by soaking almonds in water, then blending and straining the mixture to remove the almond solids. This leaves behind a milky liquid made from the almonds.

Like dairy milk, almond milk can spoil due to bacteria growth or chemical changes over time. Here are some of the main factors that cause almond milk to spoil:

Spoilage Factor Explanation
Bacterial growth Like dairy milk, bacteria present in the environment or introduced during processing can grow in almond milk over time, causing it to spoil.
Oxidation The unsaturated fatty acids in almonds can oxidize and become rancid over time when exposed to oxygen.
Enzyme activity Enzymes naturally present in the almonds break down components like proteins and fats over time, changing the quality and taste.

The high water content and near neutral pH of almond milk provide an ideal environment for spoilage microorganisms to thrive. Refrigeration helps slow spoilage, but does not completely prevent it.

Signs that almond milk has spoiled

Watch for these common signs that your almond milk has spoiled and should be discarded:

Appearance Smell Texture Taste
Separation or curdling Sour, rancid or “off” odor Grainy, lumpy, or slimy Bitter, unpleasant, or acidic taste

Separation occurs when the different components of the milk start to break down. This allows the water to separate from the proteins, fats, and nutrients. Curdling or clumping can also occur.

Rancid odors develop as the fats oxidize. Sour smells indicate bacterial activity and spoilage. An unpleasant or bitter taste is also a clear giveaway that the milk has turned.

Can spoiled almond milk make you sick?

Consuming spoiled food of any kind carries some risk of foodborne illness. However, the risks are different depending on the type of spoilage. Here are some potential health risks of drinking spoiled almond milk:

Bacterial contamination: Like dairy milk, spoiled almond milk may harbor dangerous bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, or Staphylococcus aureus. These can cause foodborne illness if consumed. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills, and cramps.

Mold contamination: If visible mold is present, the almond milk could contain dangerous molds like Aspergillus. This can produce toxins that cause illness. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and liver problems.

Rancidity: Rancid almond milk contains oxidized fatty acids that can irritate the gastrointestinal tract, causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or even cramping. The unpleasant taste should deter most consumption.

Enzyme degradation: Enzymatic spoilage causes chemical changes, but this type of spoilage is less likely to cause illness on its own. However, off-flavors indicate the milk is no longer fresh.

So while unpleasant taste, smell and texture are good warning signs to throw away spoiled milk, consuming it does pose some health risks depending on the type of spoilage. Mold contamination and bacterial growth are the most concerning.

Who is most at risk from spoiled almond milk?

Some groups are at higher risk for getting sick from consuming spoiled almond milk or other contaminated foods. Higher risk groups include:

  • Young children
  • Older adults
  • Pregnant women
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • People taking medicines that reduce stomach acid

Young children are more vulnerable due to their still-developing immune systems. Older adults or those with weakened immunity have a harder time fighting off infections. Medications like antacids that reduce stomach acid also make it easier for bacteria to survive and cause illness.

Pregnant women need to take extra care to avoid foodborne illness, as it can increase the risk of complications. Contaminated food should be avoided entirely by higher risk groups to prevent severe illness.

How to store almond milk properly

To help avoid spoilage and extend the shelf life of almond milk:

  • Purchase almond milk before the sell by or use by date.
  • Avoid purchasing containers that are damaged, swollen, or seem otherwise compromised.
  • Check that the cap or seal is intact.
  • Refrigerate almond milk immediately at 40°F or below.
  • Store in the refrigerator for no more than 7-10 days after opening.
  • Keep the cap tightly sealed between uses.
  • Do not store almond milk on the refrigerator door, where the temperature fluctuates.
  • Keep the refrigerator temperature consistently cold. Higher temperatures accelerate spoilage.
  • Store unopened shelf-stable almond milk in a cool, dry pantry.
  • Once opened, refrigerate shelf-stable milk too and use within 7-10 days.

Proper refrigeration is the best way to slow spoilage. Avoid temperature fluctuations that could encourage bacterial or mold growth. Use opened cartons quickly and watch for any signs of spoilage.

Can spoiled almond milk make you sick immediately?

No, consuming spoiled almond milk is unlikely to make you sick right away. Foodborne illness usually has an incubation period before symptoms start. Here are some examples:

Bacteria Incubation Period Duration of Illness
Salmonella 6-72 hours 4-7 days
E. coli 1-10 days 5-10 days
Listeria 9-48 hours Variable, can be serious
Staphylococcus aureus 30 minutes – 8 hours 24 hours

The amount of time before symptoms start depends on the pathogen, dose ingested, and person. Staph toxin is quickest, while others take hours to days.

So while drinking spoiled milk might make you feel a bit off, it’s unlikely to cause immediate vomiting or other severe symptoms. However, if symptoms persist or become concerning, seek medical attention.

Can I make almond milk safe to drink after spoilage?

No, there is no way to make spoiled almond milk safe to consume again. The bacteria and toxins that cause spoilage and foodborne illness cannot be reversed simply by boiling, reheating, or freezing the milk. Spoiled milk should always be discarded.

Boiling spoiled milk can kill some bacteria, but not the heat-stable toxins they produce. And dangerous spore-forming bacteria like Bacillus cereus can survive boiling. Reheating or freezing cannot destroy the dangerous byproducts either.

So while boiling or processing spoiled milk may improve taste or texture slightly, it does not remove the risk. Once almond milk has spoiled, it’s best to err on the side of caution and throw it out. Don’t rely on your own senses to determine if a food is safe. Only fresh, unspoiled milk should be consumed.

What does it mean if almond milk curdles in coffee?

Almond milk and other plant-based milks can curdle or separate when added to hot coffee. This alone does not mean the milk has completely spoiled:

  • Plant milk curdling is caused by high heat or acidity interacting with its components.
  • It happens more with almond milk due to its low protein and lack of emulsifiers.
  • The taste is unpleasant but small curdling alone is not dangerous if the milk smells and tastes normal otherwise.
  • Large curdling and truly spoiled milk should never be consumed, even in coffee.

So if your almond milk just shows some minor curdling in coffee, it may still be safe if recently opened. But if it smells rancid or off, do not drink the coffee. Significant curdling or lumps in the carton itself do signal spoiled milk. When in doubt, throw it out.


Like dairy milk, almond milk eventually spoils and harbors bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Look for signs of spoilage like an off smell, texture, or taste. Discard spoiled milk, especially if mold is present. Proper refrigeration provides the best defense against rapid spoilage. While drinking spoiled milk likely won’t make you sick immediately, it can still result in unpleasant illness that is best avoided. When in doubt, remember it’s better to be safe and discard almond milk once it spoils.