Orange juice is so common that people tend to forget that they need to put the bottle or carton back into the fridge. But is it safe to continue drinking the juice? Can you drink juice that has been left out for a few hours? We’re going to investigate this and more today.
Does Orange Juice Go Bad If Not Refrigerated?
The short answer: yes, orange juice does go wrong when you don’t refrigerate it. While orange juice has been pasteurized to kill unwanted microbes in the liquid, the protection that pasteurization provides only lasts until you open the juice carton or bottle.
Once the container has been opened, the juice is now susceptible to microbes in the air, from your hands, and even from your mouth if you drink straight from the bottle. In short, if you want to slow down the bacterial growth in the juice, you have to keep it refrigerated. Refrigeration significantly increases the freshness of food, and even if your orange juice is full of vitamin C, the vitamin C won’t last when bacteria begin colonizing the medium.
It is easy to commit the mistake of leaving the juice container out since drinking orange juice is repetitive and done daily. However, we recommend that you do so every time, so you won’t have problems with your gut after drinking the juice. Now, some people might say that they have no issues with drinking any liquid that has been left out, even the ones that have been left out overnight. Again, it’s a matter of luck with these guys.
Sometimes the bacteria don’t form quickly, so the room temperature juice doesn’t spoil as quickly. If you can consume the fluid within this window, then you won’t get sick. However, the big question here is how you would know that you won’t get sick from drinking it? Very few indicators can be perceived with the senses when it comes to food, and simply eyeballing the juice won’t do.
Can You Leave Unopened Orange Juice Out?
If the orange juice is completely sealed with the original manufacturer’s seal, there is nothing wrong with leaving it out on a table or in your pantry. These containers are meant to be displayed in supermarkets anyway. However, some types of juice do not survive without being in a refrigerated environment, even if they have not been opened. An excellent example of this would be organic mango juice. Mango juice has to be refrigerated for best results, especially if the manufacturer opted to put the mango juice in a plain plastic container.
Can Bad Orange Juice Make You Sick?
Yes, sour orange juice can eventually make you sick. There’s a good reason why manufacturers insist that consumers always refrigerate their cartons or bottles of orange juice. One to two hours outside the refrigerator is fine, but more than two hours and you’re already playing with fire. Orange juice is classified as perishable food by the US FDA, and room temperature is the biggest problem once you have opened the juice. After a few hours, spoilage will begin to set in, and leaving out a bottle or carton overnight will be problematic.
The wide window for safety is three hours maximum, and the orange juice has to have been refrigerated well enough before being brought out of the refrigerator. Always keep in mind that opened juice bottles and cartons are not shelf-stable anymore, and despite the appearance of the juice, you won’t know for sure if the liquid is still safe to drink unless you examine the liquid with a microscope, which is something ordinary people can’t do, for obvious reasons.
What about unpasteurized juice? Fresh juice made manually with a handheld juicer or an automatic juicer is even more perishable than commercial juice brands. Retail juice brands are pasteurized, and they have stabilizers that slow down spoilage and the growth of bacteria. Fresh juice doesn’t have these chemicals, so it will succumb to the natural processes of deterioration when the liquid is exposed to the vessel or container, your lips, and the air in the environment.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You can continue making fresh juice at home and enjoy the liquid, but you have to remember to keep the freshly squeezed juice chilled at all times. Fresh juice does not have the same window as commercial juice, so no, you can’t keep it out for three hours and expect the liquid not to spoil. On the other hand, if you have an excellent glass pitcher to store your fresh juice, it won’t be so much of a problem keeping the liquid, and you can make larger quantities of it for use later.
Of course, there is always cause for concern when there is a risk of contracting bag bugs like Salmonella, which is precisely why it is never safe to consume room temperature juice from a bottle. There is too much risk involved.
The worst-case scenario for drinking pasteurized orange juice left out for several hours is you can get a nasty bout of diarrhea. Now, it’s rare for someone to succumb to diarrhea from drinking nasty orange juice, but it does happen. So, it is essential to avoid the potential risk. Some people do end up in the hospital with bad bouts of diarrhea, so it is certainly no laughing matter, and it isn’t a minor thing either.
What happens when orange juice begins to spoil? Spoilage usually occurs when a small quantity of bacteria begins to increase in the liquid, and the bacterial activity begins the process of fermentation. Lactic acid-producing microbes in the orange juice will start to change the flavor profile of the fluid, too, resulting in a less palatable product.
Should this happen to any juice at home, experts recommend that you throw out the juice and buy a new one. Never risk your health for a few dollars’ worths of boxed or bottled orange juice!