What happens if you drink juice that’s gone bad?

Drinking juice that has gone bad can cause unpleasant symptoms like stomachache, nausea, and vomiting. However, the severity depends on how spoiled the juice is. Freshly spoiled juice may just taste off and cause mild GI upset. Severely rotten juice can cause more severe food poisoning. Here’s a detailed look at what happens when you drink bad juice.

How to tell if juice has gone bad

There are a few key signs that indicate your juice is no longer fresh and safe to drink:

  • Unpleasant sour, bitter, or moldy smell
  • Fizziness or bubbling
  • Cloudiness or sediment
  • Slimy texture
  • Discoloration or separation
  • Grainy or fuzzy texture
  • Bulging or leaking container
  • Expired use-by date

If your juice exhibits any of these qualities, it’s best to err on the side of caution and discard it. Even if it doesn’t smell or look spoiled, expired juice should not be consumed.

Why juice spoils

There are a few reasons why opened juice eventually goes bad:

  • Microbial growth: Bacteria, mold, and yeast thrive on the sugars and nutrients in juice. Over time, the microbes multiply and ferment the juice, causing discoloration, gas, alcohol production, and unpleasant smells.
  • Oxidation: Exposure to air causes juice to oxidize, which degrades nutrients, flavors, and color. Enzymes in the juice also speed up chemical reactions.
  • Separation: Juice components like water, sugars, and pigments separate. Lighter water floats to the top while denser pigments and pulp sink.
  • Contaminants: Particles of food, dust, and other contaminants get into the juice over time, leading to spoilage.

The higher the sugar and nutrient content, the quicker juice spoils. Even refrigeration only slows down, but doesn’t prevent, spoilage.

What happens when you drink spoiled juice

Drinking juice that’s starting to spoil or is past its prime can cause the following unpleasant symptoms:

  • Upset stomach – Stomach cramps, pain, gurgling, gas, bloating
  • Nausea – Queasy feeling, urge to vomit
  • Vomiting – Throwing up the spoiled juice and stomach contents
  • Diarrhea – Watery, loose stools; abdominal cramping
  • Headache – Pain or throbbing in the head
  • Dizziness – Lightheadedness, vertigo sensation
  • General malaise – Feeling unwell, fatigued, feverish

These symptoms often start 30 minutes to a few hours after drinking the spoiled juice. The timing and severity depends on personal tolerance and just how rotten the juice is.

Why these symptoms occur

There are a few reasons you feel sick after drinking bad juice:

  • Toxins – Microbes produce toxic byproducts like alcohols, acids, gases as they ferment the sugars.
  • Pathogens – Disease-causing bacteria like salmonella, E. coli, listeria, staphylococcus.
  • Microbial waste – Metabolic wastes from rapid microbial growth.
  • Enzymes – Juice naturally contains enzymes that speed up spoilage.
  • Oxidation byproducts – Compounds formed when juice oxidizes.
  • Mold toxins – Mycotoxins from mold growth are poisonous.
  • Immune reaction – Body identifies pathogens, toxins as foreign substances.

When you ingest these substances in spoiled juice, your immune system flags them as dangerous invaders. This triggers inflammation, diarrhea, vomiting, and other symptoms to quickly expel the juice and the microbes/toxins it contains before they can invade your cells and bloodstream.

Risks of drinking rotten juice

While drinking a sip or two of spoiled juice may just cause some stomach upset, consuming larger amounts comes with more risks:

  • Severe dehydration from profuse vomiting and diarrhea leading to electrolyte imbalance, kidney problems, weakness, dizziness, fainting, seizures
  • Bacterial infection if juice pathogens invade the bloodstream; may be life-threatening for those with weakened immune systems
  • Hemolytic uremic syndrome from E. coli O157:H7 bacteria; causes kidney failure and blood cell damage
  • Listeriosis from listeria bacteria; causes sepsis, meningitis, encephalitis, miscarriage, stillbirths
  • Aflatoxin poisoning from mold toxins; causes liver damage, cancer risk
  • Respiratory failure if juice enters lungs; more likely when vomiting

While rare, rotten juice can make you very ill if it contains hazardous levels of microbial toxins or dangerous pathogens like E. coli or listeria.

How long until spoiled juice makes you sick?

Onset of symptoms can occur anywhere from 30 minutes to 48 hours after ingesting bad juice. However, most people get sick within 4 to 24 hours. Factors impacting this timeframe include:

  • How long the juice was left unrefrigerated
  • Storage temperature
  • Type and amount of microbes
  • Juice acidity
  • Amount consumed
  • Personal tolerance
  • Health status

The more warm, humid days the juice sat out unrefrigerated, the higher the likelihood it grew dangerous microbial counts. Consuming larger volumes also increases odds of illness occurring. Healthy adults may start feeling sick 4-6 hours after drinking slightly spoiled juice. They may get ill faster if juice was severely rotten.

How long do symptoms last?

Symptom Duration
Nausea and vomiting 24-48 hours
Diarrhea 48-72 hours
Stomach cramps 24-48 hours
Headache 24 hours
Fatigue and weakness 24-48 hours
Dizziness 24 hours

Symptoms typically last 24-72 hours but can persist longer if the juice contained pathogens or toxins. Seek medical attention if symptoms don’t resolve after 3-4 days.

How to treat juice food poisoning

Most symptoms can be managed at home with rest and hydration. Key tips include:

  • Drink small sips of water, broth, or electrolyte drinks to rehydrate
  • Eat bland, easy-to-digest foods like toast, rice, applesauce, yogurt
  • Take over-the-counter anti-nausea/anti-diarrhea medication
  • Use a heating pad for cramps and body aches
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Avoid solid foods until vomiting passes

See a doctor right away if you experience worsening dehydration, bloody stools, high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, prolonged vomiting, or muscle weakness. These require medical treatment and lab tests for pathogens and toxins.

How to prevent juice from going bad

To avoid getting sick, here are some tips for keeping juice fresh longer:

  • Refrigerate after opening and consume within 3-5 days
  • Check “best by” dates and don’t drink expired juice
  • Store in airtight containers away from light and heat
  • Keep refrigerated below 40°F
  • Avoid introducing contaminants by using clean utensils
  • Freeze excess juice in small batches for longer storage

Also, listen to your senses – if juice smells, tastes, or looks unpleasant, play it safe and throw it out. With proper storage and handling, juice can stay fresh and safe to drink.


Drinking spoiled juice can cause GI symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps within hours of consumption. The severity depends on how rotten the juice is. While usually self-limiting, bad juice can sometimes cause dehydration, infections, or toxicity in high-risk individuals. Use safe storage practices and your senses to determine when juice is past its prime. Discard any juice that smells, tastes, or looks unpleasant to avoid a bout of food poisoning.

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