Unopened refrigerated orange juice has an average shelf life of one to two weeks. Once opened, it lasts between five and seven days. You will typically know that your orange juice is sour even before you look at its stamped expiration date, since it may start to ferment or form mold. In either case, it's time to dump it. If you know what to look for, you may still be able to use orange juice after the expiration date has passed.
Feel the orange juice container for puffiness. If the container seems to bulge at all or if it is very firm to the touch, the cause may be fermentation. Fermentation is the result of bacteria that has begun to break down the juice into alcohol and sugars.
Open the container and smell the contents. A sour or sharp smell can indicate fermentation. If you smell nothing unusual, do not drink the juice until you investigate further. Look inside the container for mold, which may appear as light or dark spots on the walls of the container or in the juice itself. Discard the juice if you detect any signs of mold.
Pour some juice into a clear glass and inspect it for signs of mold. A pure orange color indicates that you can safely drink the juice.
- Just because the expiration date has passed on your orange juice does not mean it is no longer good to drink. The date you see on the container is placed by the manufacturer as a guideline for retailers. It tells them when to take it off the shelf and stop selling it, but it does not indicate when the juice is no longer safe to drink. In fact, orange juice may remain safe past the expiration date if stored correctly below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Never drink orange juice or any juice that displays an unpleasant odor or visible mold. Ingesting mold can result in stomach upset. If your orange juice is allowed to warm to a temperature above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for any length of time, bacteria may form in the spoiled juice that cause food poisoning.
Robert Morello has an extensive travel, marketing and business background. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in 2002 and has worked in travel as a guide, corporate senior marketing and product manager and travel consultant/expert. Morello is a professional writer and adjunct professor of travel and tourism.