How long can you drink juice after the expiration date?

Drinking juice past its expiration date can be risky. While the juice may still be safe to consume for a short period after the expiration date, its quality and nutrition can deteriorate over time. This article examines how long you can drink juice after the expiration date and what signs to look for to determine if expired juice has gone bad.

What does the expiration date mean?

The expiration date printed on juice packaging indicates the last date recommended for use at peak quality. It does not necessarily mean the juice will spoil or become unsafe to drink right after that date. Juice expiration dates refer to unopened, properly stored juice. Once opened, juice should be consumed within a few days.

There are two main kinds of expiration dates:

  • Best Before Date: Indicates when the juice will be at peak flavor/quality. Juice can still be used for some time after this date, but it may start to lose flavor and nutrition.
  • Use By Date: The last date recommended for use while at peak quality. This is usually found on unpasteurized juice that spoils quickly.

How long after the printed date can you safely drink juice?

Here is an approximate guide to how long different types of juice can be consumed after their printed expiration date, if properly stored in a refrigerator at 40°F or below:

Juice Type Time After Printed Expiration Date
Pasteurized fruit juice or juice blends (apple, grape, cranberry) 3-5 weeks
Unpasteurized fruit juice (freshly squeezed) 3-5 days
Vegetable juice 3-4 days
Juice concentrates 6-9 months

As a general rule of thumb, most pasteurized juices stay drinkable 1-2 weeks after their printed date, if refrigerated. Unpasteurized juice only lasts about 5-7 days after opening. Juice concentrates, frozen and shelf-stable juices last much longer, often many months past their date.

Signs that juice may be expired

Watch for the following signs that your juice has spoiled and should be discarded:

  • Off smells: Expired juice smells yeasty, fermented, or moldy.
  • Off flavors: Juice tastes sour, vinegary or unpleasantly strong in flavor.
  • Change in color: Juice appears darker, cloudy or separates.
  • Gas or bubbling: Fermentation causes carbonation.
  • Mold: Check the inner seal for visible mold.
  • Nutrient degradation: Vitamin C content is greatly reduced.

If your juice shows any of these signs of spoilage, err on the side of caution and throw it away. Don’t drink it.

Tips for storing juice properly

To get the longest shelf life and preserve juice quality after opening, be sure to:

  • Refrigerate after opening: Keep juice chilled at 40°F or below.
  • Check seal: Ensure lids are tightly sealed.
  • Watch for separation: Shake juice well before pouring.
  • Keep clean: Wipe rims/spouts and don’t double dip glasses.
  • Use quick: Drink juice within a few days of opening.

Proper refrigeration is key for keeping juice fresh for as long as possible after the expiration date. The colder the storage temperature, the better.

Can expired juice make you sick?

While drinking expired juice may not make you sick in most cases, some risks do exist:

  • Foodborne illness: Spoiled, unpasteurized juice can harbor dangerous bacteria like salmonella, listeria, and E. coli if left unrefrigerated for too long.
  • Toxic mold: Juice kept too long can develop hazardous molds that cause allergic reactions or liver damage when consumed.
  • Intestinal symptoms: Outdated juice may cause diarrhea, vomiting, or stomach pain in some people with sensitivities.
  • Vitamin degradation: Nutrients like Vitamin C and antioxidants break down over time, reducing nutritional value.

Those with compromised immune systems, the very young, or the elderly should avoid drinking expired juice due to higher risk of foodborne illnesses. Healthy adults can likely tolerate modest amounts of expired juice, but may experience temporary digestive upset like diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting as a result.

The shelf life of different juice types

Here’s a breakdown of how long various common juices are safe to drink after opening, when properly refrigerated:

Juice Type Refrigerator Shelf Life After Opening
Orange juice 7-10 days
Apple juice 5-7 days
Grape juice 5-7 days
Cranberry juice 7-10 days
Vegetable juice 2-3 days
Lemon/lime juice 4-6 days
Pineapple juice 1-2 days

Fruit and vegetable juices have shorter shelf lives once opened compared to their unopened expiration dates. The more acidic juices like orange, lemon, lime, and cranberry stay drinkable a little longer. Veggie juices spoil most quickly.

Ways to use up juice before it expires

To avoid wasting expired but still drinkable juice, consider these creative ways to use it up:

  • Smoothies: Blend juice with yogurt, fruit, greens, etc.
  • Juice pops: Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.
  • Added to sauces: Use in marinades, salad dressings, glazes.
  • Cooking liquid: Replace water when cooking grains like rice or quinoa.
  • Baked goods: Substitute juice for other liquids in recipes.
  • Savory dishes: Deglaze pans with juice. Stir into soups, stews.

Mixing juice into frozen pops, smoothies, sauces, or baked goods can mask any flavor changes from expiration. Avoid wasting juice by getting creative in the kitchen when it reaches its printed date.

Can you freeze juice past the expiration date?

Freezing is an effective way to extend the shelf life of juices past their sell-by or best-by dates. Here are some freezing tips:

  • Check for signs of spoilage before freezing. Do not freeze bad juice.
  • Most juices can be frozen for 2-3 months beyond the printed date.
  • Pour juice into freezer-safe plastic containers or bags, leaving 1⁄2 inch headspace.
  • Flatten zipper bags to limit air exposure and freezer burn.
  • Avoid freezing and thawing juice multiple times. This diminishes quality.
  • Frozen juice may separate. Shake or stir before serving.

Freezing stops the clock on juice freshness. Thaw frozen juice in the refrigerator before serving. Juice that smells or tastes off should be discarded rather than frozen.

Conclusion

Drinking juice a short time past its printed expiration date is generally safe, if it has been properly refrigerated and the bottle is not damaged. However, expired juice degrades in quality and nutrition over time. Watch for changes in smell, taste, appearance and other signs of spoilage. When in doubt, remember the old adage – when expired, out it goes! Dispose of questionable juice rather than risk getting sick from consuming bad juice. Implement good refrigerator storage habits and creative uses to minimize waste and enjoy your juice before it expires.

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