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Can you drink orange juice after expiration?


Orange juice is a popular beverage around the world prized for its delicious taste and nutritious properties. Like all food and drinks, orange juice has a shelf life and will eventually expire. But what exactly happens when orange juice expires? Is it still safe to consume? Here is a comprehensive look at the safety and quality of drinking expired orange juice.

What is the shelf life of orange juice?

The shelf life of orange juice depends on a few factors:

  • Type of orange juice – Freshly squeezed orange juice will only last about 3-5 days in the refrigerator. Store-bought orange juice that has been pasteurized and packaged can last 1-2 weeks after opening. Concentrated and frozen orange juices can last several months in the freezer.
  • Container – Orange juice stored in an airtight container will last longer than juice in a container that allows air exposure.
  • Ingredients – Orange juice with added preservatives like vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and potassium sorbate can extend the shelf life.
  • Storage conditions – Refrigeration is ideal. Storage in the freezer is best for concentrated or frozen juices. Heat and light degrade the quality and accelerate spoilage.

The printed expiration date on the container indicates the end of the manufacturer’s recommended shelf life for best quality. However, expiration dates are simply guidelines and do not necessarily mean the orange juice has gone bad immediately after.

What happens when orange juice expires?

As orange juice passes its expiration date, several changes happen:

  • Nutrient loss – Vitamin C content in orange juice degrades over time after opening. One study found vitamin C concentration dropped by 32% in refrigerated orange juice 3 weeks after opening. Vitamin A and folate can also degrade in expired orange juice.
  • Flavor changes – The fresh orange flavor diminishes in expired orange juice. Oxidation also causes off-flavors. The juice may taste flat or have a bitter, sour, or metallic taste.
  • Color changes – The vibrant orange hue fades as pigments like carotenoids break down.
  • Texture changes – Expired orange juice may seem more watery or separated rather than having a smooth, consistency.
  • Microbial growth – Yeasts, molds, and bacteria can grow over time, especially if expired juice was left unrefrigerated. This causes visible spoilage like film, fuzz, or gas bubbles.

But if the orange juice was handled properly, these changes occur slowly. Consumption immediately after the expiration date is generally still safe.

Is it safe to drink expired orange juice?

If the expired orange juice was properly stored and the container is not damaged, it is likely safe to drink for a short period after the printed expiration date, generally 1-2 weeks.

However, safety depends on the conditions:

Storage Conditions Safety After Expiration
Refrigerated, unopened Likely safe for 1-2 weeks
Refrigerated, opened Use within 3-5 days
Pantry, unopened Likely safe for 1 week
Pantry, opened Not recommended
Frozen, unopened Likely safe for 2-3 months
Frozen, opened Likely safe for 1 month

The main safety risk is microbial growth leading to foodborne illness. Refrigeration and freezing prevent most microbes from growing. Acidity in orange juice also helps control microbes. But over time, bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli can grow to unsafe levels, especially if the expired juice was left at room temperature.

How to tell if expired orange juice has spoiled

Always inspect and smell expired orange juice before drinking to check for signs of spoilage:

  • Appearance – Mold, film/particles, separation, faded color
  • Aroma – Sour, off-odors, fermented smell
  • Texture – Extreme wateriness, viscosity changes
  • Taste – Bitter, metallic, very acidic
  • Carbonation – Bubbles, gas pockets (in unpasteurized juice)

If expired orange juice passes the inspection and tastes relatively normal, it is likely safe to drink. However, you should not drink orange juice that is over 2 weeks past its expiration, even if it does not appear spoiled. At that point, dangerous microbial growth is more likely.

Does expired orange juice make you sick?

Consuming spoiled, expired orange juice can cause foodborne illness. The main safety risks are:

  • Salmonella – Leads to nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, and chills starting 12-72 hours after drinking contaminated juice.
  • E. coli – Causes severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever beginning 3-4 days after ingesting contaminated juice.
  • Mold – Inhalation or ingestion can trigger allergic reactions or asthma symptoms in sensitive individuals.
  • Yeast and fermentation – Can cause bloating, stomach upset, nausea, and vomiting.

Healthy adults will likely only experience temporary gastrointestinal distress. But symptoms can be more dangerous for higher-risk groups like children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems.

Always discard expired, spoiled orange juice to avoid getting sick. If you develop concerning symptoms after drinking expired juice, seek medical care.

Does freezing extend the shelf life of orange juice?

Freezing unopened, concentrated orange juice can significantly extend its shelf life. According to the FDA Food Code:

  • Commercially packaged orange juice concentrate keeps 12 months frozen.
  • Diluted, ready-to-drink orange juice lasts 4-6 months in the freezer.

Freezing stops microbial growth and slows the chemical reactions that cause nutrient degradation.

However, freezing cannot reverse the effects if orange juice is already expired. Previously opened juice already has some microbial contamination and nutrient loss.

For best quality, frozen OJ should be thawed and consumed within a few days. Changes including separation, off-flavors, and vitamin degradation can still occur over months in the freezer.

Does refrigeration extend the shelf life of orange juice?

Refrigerating opened orange juice helps extend its shelf life. According to American Dietetic Association guidelines:

  • Unopened refrigerated orange juice lasts 7-10 days past the printed expiration date.
  • Opened refrigerated orange juice is good for 4-7 days.

The cold temperature of the refrigerator between 34-40°F slows microbial growth and oxidation reactions that cause fresh orange juice to deteriorate.

However, refrigeration cannot make expired, spoiled orange juice safe to drink again. Any bacteria present can still grow and multiply over time in the fridge.

For best safety and quality, consume refrigerated orange juice within a week of opening. Do not rely on refrigeration to make overly expired orange juice last months longer.

Does boiling expired orange juice make it safe to drink?

Boiling expired orange juice is not guaranteed to make it safe to drink again. High heat can destroy most disease-causing bacteria. However, boiling may not get rid of:

  • Heat-stable bacterial toxins
  • Mold and yeast
  • Off-flavors from oxidation
  • Nutrient degradation

Boiling also negatively impacts the flavor, color, and vitamin content of orange juice. This can make spoiled juice taste even worse.

Only boil expired juice if it shows no signs of spoilage, has been refrigerated continuously, and is within 1 week past expiration. Discard juice that is clumpy, moldy, or has an off smell when boiled.


Drinking orange juice within 1-2 weeks past its printed expiration date is generally safe if it has been stored properly in the refrigerator or freezer. However, expired juice should be inspected closely for any signs of spoilage like changes in appearance, smell, taste, or texture. Orange juice that is more than 2 weeks expired or not refrigerated should not be consumed due to higher risks of microbial growth and foodborne illness. Freezing unopened orange juice significantly prolongs its shelf life, while refrigeration can keep opened juice safe for a short period. But overall, drinking freshly prepared juice within 5 days is best for optimal nutrition and flavor. Discard expired, spoiled orange juice rather than trying to boil or freeze to salvage it. With proper handling, orange juice can be safely enjoyed past its expiration date in most cases. But when in doubt, remember – if it smells funky, looks nasty, or tastes off, throw it out!