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Can old orange juice cause food poisoning?


Orange juice is a breakfast staple for many people. A glass of OJ provides vitamin C, potassium, and other nutrients to start your day off right. But what happens when that carton has been sitting in your fridge for a while? Can old orange juice make you sick?

The short answer is yes, it can. Like any perishable food, orange juice can spoil and harbor dangerous bacteria if it’s kept past its prime. Consuming spoiled OJ puts you at risk for foodborne illness.

In this article, we’ll explore how long orange juice is safe to drink, signs that OJ has spoiled, and what food poisoning from orange juice looks like. We’ll also provide tips for proper storage and handling to keep your OJ fresh and safe.

How Long Does Unopened Orange Juice Last?

First, let’s start with unopened cartons, bottles, or jugs of orange juice. How long does commercially packaged OJ stay safe and retain quality in the fridge?

According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), unopened refrigerated orange juice generally stays fresh for 1 to 2 weeks past the printed date on the package. The printed date could be a “sell by” or “use by” date.

So if you buy a carton of OJ and see that the use by date is January 1st, you can safely store and drink that orange juice for likely 2 more weeks, up until about January 15th.

However, be aware that the quality and flavor can start to degrade over time. Even if it’s safe to drink, OJ that’s older might begin tasting stale or slightly off.

How Long Does Opened Orange Juice Last?

Once you break the seal and open up a container of orange juice, its shelf life is shortened. This exposes the OJ to air and potential contaminants like bacteria or mold.

The FSIS says that opened orange juice will stay fresh for about 5 to 7 days in the refrigerator.

So if you open and pour yourself a glass of OJ on Monday morning, that carton should be consumed or discarded by the following Sunday or Monday at the latest.

To maximize freshness, be sure to reseal or close the orange juice container tightly after each use. You can transfer opened OJ to a covered pitcher or bottle if you won’t be finishing the full carton within 5-7 days.

How to Tell If Orange Juice Has Gone Bad

Watch for these signs that your OJ is past its prime and potentially spoiled:

Change in consistency: Fresh orange juice should be pulpy and slightly viscous. Spoiled OJ may be watery or slimy.

Mold: Check the sides, bottom, or cap of the container for fuzzy mold growth, which can be white, green, or black. Discard immediately if mold is present.

Fermented smell: Orange juice gives off a fresh, citrusy aroma when newly opened. Foul, unpleasant odors indicate spoilage.

Fizzing or bubbling: Fermentation causes carbonation, so bubbles rising in older OJ is not a good sign.

Discoloration: The bright orange color might fade or become brown. However, some separation is normal.

Off tastes: Flat, musty, or acidic flavors point to OJ that’s too old to drink.

Trust your senses. When in doubt, throw it out and stick to freshly purchased orange juice.

Dangers of Drinking Spoiled Orange Juice

So what happens if you accidentally drink orange juice that’s past its prime or gone bad?

Consuming spoiled OJ can lead to food poisoning caused by pathogenic bacteria, molds, or yeasts that multiply as the juice spoils. Let’s look at some of the main foodborne pathogens that can lurk in bad orange juice:


Salmonella infection, or salmonellosis, is one of the most common types of food poisoning. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, chills, nausea, and abdominal cramps starting 12-72 hours after ingesting contaminated food or drink.

E. Coli

Certain strains of Escherichia coli (E. coli) produce toxins that inflame the stomach and intestines, causing severe gastric distress. Is typically takes 1-8 days for symptoms to manifest.


The listeria bacteria can contaminate refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods like OJ. Listeriosis often causes fever, muscle aches, and neurological problems in those with weakened immune systems.

Mold and Yeast

Orange juice left at room temperature can develop hazardous molds like Penicillium. Ingesting mycotoxins from mold growth poses a health risk. Yeast in spoiled OJ also causes problems.

Consuming rancid orange juice essentially introduces clusters of dangerous microbes into your digestive tract. This disrupts the natural gut microbiome balance and makes you sick as the body tries to fight off infection.

Who is Most at Risk?

Certain people are more likely to become seriously ill from spoiled orange juice and other contaminated foods:

– Infants, young children, and the elderly

– Pregnant women

– Those with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients receiving chemotherapy

– Individuals taking medicines that reduce stomach acid

– People with chronic diseases like diabetes or kidney failure

If you fall into a high-risk group, take extra care to drink only fresh orange juice and avoid suspect cartons that could make you very sick. When in doubt, throw it out!

Treatment for Orange Juice Food Poisoning

If you develop gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or fever after drinking questionable orange juice, seek medical care promptly. Signs of dehydration or an inability to keep fluids down necessitate IV fluids or hospitalization.

Generally, food poisoning runs its course in 24-48 hours. Treatment involves rest, hydration, and managing symptoms:

– Drink plenty of water, juice, or oral rehydration beverages

– Take over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medication

– Ease nausea with ginger, mint, or lemon tea

– Temporarily avoid solid foods until appetite returns

– Monitor for blood in stools or dark urine as a sign of more serious illness

Let your doctor know if high fever, severe abdominal pain, bloody stools, or neurological issues develop after suspect food or drink. Prompt medical attention can prevent life-threatening complications.

How to Prevent OJ Food Poisoning

You can keep your orange juice safe and prevent foodborne illness by:

– Checking expiration or use-by dates and only consuming unopened OJ within 2 weeks of those dates

– Refrigerating opened orange juice at 40°F or below and drinking within 5-7 days

– Keeping the lid tightly closed and pouring into a sealed container if not finishing the full carton promptly

– Never letting OJ sit out on the counter or in the sun, where bacteria can multiply quickly

– Examining closely for any signs of spoilage like mold, sliminess, or off odors

– Paying attention to product recalls of contaminated orange juice

– Only serving children pasteurized OJ to destroy pathogens

– Cleaning the fridge regularly to avoid cross-contamination

Proper food handling and storage goes a long way in keeping orange juice safe and fresh until the last drop!


Expired or spoiled orange juice can definitely cause foodborne illness if consumed. Storing refrigerated OJ properly, watching for signs of spoilage, and adhering to use-by dates is key. If food poisoning symptoms arise after drinking questionable orange juice, seek medical care right away. With proper precautions, we can continue enjoying orange juice as part of a nutritious breakfast!

Type of Orange Juice Refrigerator Shelf Life
Unopened 1-2 weeks past printed date
After opening 5-7 days