What happens if you drink unopened expired juice?


Drinking expired juice may not seem like a big deal. After all, it’s still sealed and was never opened, right? However, drinking juice past its expiration date can actually be risky. When juice expires, bacteria can start to grow even if the bottle or carton is unopened. Consuming this expired juice can potentially cause foodborne illness. In this article, we’ll explore what happens when you drink expired, unopened juice and provide tips on how to store and consume juice safely.

What is Juice Expiration?

The expiration date printed on juice packaging indicates the last date by which the manufacturer recommends using or consuming the juice. This date takes into account the shelf life of the product based on factors like:

  • Ingredient quality
  • Packaging
  • Storage temperature
  • Processing method

After the printed expiration date passes, deterioration in color, texture, taste, and nutrition can occur. Most notably, harmful bacteria may start to multiply to unsafe levels.

Some key factors influence how long unopened juice stays fresh and safe to drink:

Factor Description
Type of Juice Juices with less acidity (like orange) spoil more quickly than acidic juices (like lemon).
Preservatives Added preservatives help inhibit microbial growth.
Processing Method Pasteurization kills pathogens and yields a longer shelf life compared to unpasteurized juice.
Packaging Shelf-stable aseptic boxes keep juice fresher than plastic bottles or glass containers.
Storage Temperature Refrigeration prolongs freshness compared to room temperature storage.

With proper storage, most commercially packaged juices stay consumable 1-2 weeks past the printed date. However, some may retain peak quality and safety for an even longer time.

Can Expired Juice Make You Sick?

Consuming expired juice can potentially cause food poisoning, even if the bottle or carton remains sealed. Here are some of the risks:

Microbial Growth

Over time, bacteria like mold, yeast, and pathogenic strains can grow in packaged juice despite refrigeration. While preservatives help limit microbial growth, they do not fully prevent it. Once populations reach high levels, these microbes can cause illness.

Newborns, young children, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems face the greatest risk of infection. Healthy individuals may also develop symptoms in some cases.

Toxin Production

Certain microbes release toxins as they multiply. These toxins can persist even if dangerous bacteria are killed off through pasteurization or cooking. Consuming these toxins in expired juice can lead to illness.

Nutrient Loss

As juice ages, levels of beneficial nutrients like vitamin C and antioxidants diminish over time. So while not directly harmful, drinking expired juice means you lose out on its nutritional value.

What Are the Symptoms of Consuming Expired Juice?

If you drink expired juice contaminated with pathogens or toxins, you may develop food poisoning symptoms including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

Symptoms can appear anywhere from 30 minutes to 48 hours after ingesting contaminated juice. The duration and severity depends on the particular microbe, toxin, and dose consumed.

Healthy adults will likely experience mild to moderate symptoms for a day or two. However, more dangerous outcomes like dehydration, hospitalization, and even death are possible in severe cases. Those at higher risk should take extra care to avoid consuming expired juice.

How Long Past Expiration is Juice Still Good?

It’s tricky to predict exactly how long unopened, expired juice stays ok to drink. Storage conditions significantly impact the shelf life. Here are some general guidelines based on juice type and storage:

Juice Type Refrigerated Shelf-Stable
Pasteurized Orange Juice 7-10 days past expiration 1 month past expiration
Pasteurized Lemon/Lime Juice 14-18 days past expiration 6 weeks past expiration
Pasteurized Apple Juice 5-7 days past expiration 2-3 weeks past expiration
Unpasteurized Juice Don’t drink past expiration Don’t drink past expiration
Juice Blends 3-5 days past expiration 10-14 days past expiration

Again, these are general estimates. Certain juices may spoil sooner than expected if stored improperly. When in doubt, play it safe and discard expired juice. The potential belly ache and nasty symptoms are not worth the risk.

Tips for Safely Storing Juice

To get the most shelf life out of your juice and avoid the hazards of drinking expired product, follow these storage tips:

  • Purchase juice with the furthest away sell-by or use-by date.
  • Refrigerate juice after purchase and keep chilled at 40°F or below.
  • Store unpasteurized juice no more than 5 days.
  • If unrefrigerated, use shelf-stable juice within 6-12 months.
  • Keep juice in original airtight, opaque containers.
  • Avoid temperature fluctuations that speed up spoilage.
  • Don’t store juice on refrigerator door where temperature varies.
  • Check for changes in appearance, aroma, or taste before drinking expired juice.

Proper refrigeration provides the best defense against microbial growth. If juice tastes or smells off, err on the side of caution and throw it out.

What to Do if You Accidentally Drink Expired Juice

Mistakes happen. Juice way in the back of the fridge sometimes gets overlooked. What should you do if you realize you just drank expired, potentially spoiled juice?

First, sniff and examine the juice for any odd colors, textures, sediments, or sliminess. Changes like these indicate spoilage. If everything seems normal, you’re likely fine. But if the juice seems off:

  • Discard any remaining juice immediately.
  • Monitor yourself closely for any food poisoning symptoms over the next 48 hours.
  • Drink plenty of water to flush out your system.
  • Call your doctor if you develop concerning symptoms like diarrhea lasting over 24 hours, bloody stools, fever over 101°F, or signs of dehydration.

With prompt attention from a healthcare provider, serious complications can often be avoided.

Should You Ever Knowingly Drink Expired Juice?

Drinking expired juice is never recommended. The potential risks simply aren’t worth it. But what about in certain situations where you may knowingly consume over-the-hill juice?

Here are a few cases where you might be tempted:

Using Expired Juice in Cooking: The heat from cooking usually kills any bacteria present in juice. However, toxins could still remain. It’s safest to avoid using expired juice as an ingredient.

Drinking Expired Pasteurized Juice: Pasteurization eliminates harmful pathogens, giving these juices a slightly longer shelf life. But bacteria and toxins can still develop over time. Play it safe and don’t drink it.

Chugging Expired Juice for the Nutrients: Even if the juice doesn’t make you sick, the vitamins and antioxidants are long gone. Don’t drink simply for the nutritional benefit.

Trying to Avoid Food Waste: Tossing expired food goes against our savings mentality. But avoiding waste doesn’t outweigh safety. When in doubt, throw it out!

The Bottom Line

Drinking expired juice is a gamble that could end badly. Given the risks of foodborne illness, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and avoid consuming juice past the printed expiration date. With proper refrigeration and careful inspection before drinking, you can feel confident the juice you’re enjoying is fresh and safe. Discard any juice that seems at all off to avoid unfortunate symptoms. And remember – when in doubt, throw it out! Your health and wellbeing are too important.


While drinking unopened, expired juice may seem harmless, it can actually be very dangerous due to potential microbial growth and toxin production. Consuming contaminated expired juice can lead to unpleasant symptoms or even serious illness in some cases. To avoid foodborne disease, juice should be refrigerated and discarded by the expiration date printed on the packaging. When stored properly, most juices stay fresh and consumable for 1-2 weeks past the printed date. However, it’s impossible to know just how long an expired juice is still safe. If juice has any odd appearance, smell, or taste, it’s best to play it safe and throw it out. By being cautious about drinking expired juice and following proper storage methods, you can continue to safely enjoy the convenience, flavors, and nutrition of juice long after purchase.

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