Can you drink almond milk if you leave it out overnight?

Almond milk has become a popular plant-based milk alternative for many people. It is made from ground almonds and water, sometimes with added vitamins, minerals and sweeteners. While almond milk has many benefits, a common question is whether it is safe to drink if it has been left out at room temperature overnight.

The Dangers of Leaving Almond Milk Out

As with any perishable food or beverage, leaving almond milk out at room temperature overnight can increase the risk of bacterial growth. Almond milk provides a good environment for bacteria to multiply since it contains nutrients like proteins, sugars and fats. Some of the potential dangers of drinking almond milk that has sat out include:

  • Food poisoning – Bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli and Staphylococcus can grow and cause symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.
  • Spoiled milk – Over time, bacteria will cause almond milk to spoil, curdle and develop an unpleasant taste.
  • Mold – Leaving the milk out allows mold spores in the air to land on the surface and grow.

These risks increase the longer and warmer the almond milk is left out. High temperatures allow bacteria to multiply faster.

Factors that Increase Risk

There are a few factors that can increase the chance of bacteria growth when leaving almond milk out overnight:

  • Time – The longer almond milk sits out at room temperature, the more opportunity for bacteria to grow to dangerous levels. Many experts advise discarding almond milk left out more than 2 hours.
  • Temperature – Warm environments accelerate bacteria growth. On hot summer days or next to appliances, almond milk can become unsafe more quickly.
  • Contamination – Dirty utensils or hands introduce bacteria when the milk is first poured. Starting with more bacteria means faster growth.
  • Packaging – Once opened, the protective packaging is compromised so microbes can more easily get into the milk.

Safety Tips

If you want to drink almond milk safely, the best practice is to refrigerate it right away after opening and discard any milk left out overnight. However, the following tips can help minimize the risks if you do accidentally leave it out:

  • Smell and inspect the milk – Check for an unpleasant odor, chunky texture or visible mold which are signs it may be spoiled.
  • Check the temperature – Milk that still feels cool may not have been left out long enough to harbor dangerous bacteria levels.
  • Bring it to a rapid boil – Heating to this high temperature can kill most bacteria.
  • Use clean utensils – Make sure the container and cup you pour into are clean to prevent recontamination.

When in Doubt, Throw it Out

If there is any uncertainty about the safety of almond milk that has sat out for many hours, it is best to err on the side of caution. Consuming contaminated almond milk that has allowed bacteria levels to multiply significantly could result in a foodborne illness. Your health is not worth the risk to save a carton of almond milk. Follow the motto: “When in doubt, throw it out.”

Shelf Life and Storage

To prevent the possibility of drinking spoiled milk, proper storage is key. Here is some general guidance on how long almond milk will stay fresh and how to store it:

Refrigerator 7-10 days past best by date
Freezer 6-8 months in airtight container
Pantry/cupboard 6-8 months, unopened
Room temperature 2 hours max after opening

Some other storage tips include:

  • Keep almond milk refrigerated at 40°F or below after opening.
  • Do not store in the refrigerator door where the temperature fluctuates.
  • Check for expiration or best by dates and don’t consume past these.
  • Keep the container lid sealed tight after each use.
  • once opened, transfer to smaller container if not using full amount.

The Bottom Line

Drinking almond milk that has been left unrefrigerated overnight is risky due to the potential for bacterial contamination and growth. Food poisoning symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps can result. Your safest option is to throw out any almond milk that you are unsure about. Remember these simple food safety rules:

  • Refrigerate almond milk within 2 hours of opening.
  • Never leave almond milk out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
  • Discard any milk that smells bad, looks chunky or has visible mold.
  • When in doubt if almond milk is safe, throw it out.

Following proper storage methods, use-by dates and food handling practices can help prevent foodborne illness from consuming spoiled milk. While almond milk has many nutritional benefits, it must be treated with care just like any other perishable dairy product.

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