Juice is one of the top 25 sources of calories in most kid's diets, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. No matter what juice your child likes to drink, it is important to pay attention to the "use by" date on the container. Drinking expired juice may or may not make your kids sick, depending on whether it is actually spoiled. It is likely, however, to not be as palatable as fresher juice.
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Dates on food items are only mandatory on infant formula and baby food, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service. Manufacturers put "sell by" and "use by" dates on other food items to indicate when the food is at its best quality. "Sell by" dates are used by the store to help them determine when a food item should come off the shelf. You should not purchase food items past the "sell by" date. The "use by" date is the last recommended date at which the food item is at its best quality.
Drinking Expired Juice
According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service, foods are safe to eat after their expiration dates as long as they are kept at the right temperature. The dates on food packages indicate quality of food items, not safety. Drinking expired juice does not make kids sick, but your kids may not like how it tastes.
Unopened juice has a shelf-life of 12 months. But juice can spoil once opened, whether refrigerated or not. Spoiled juice has an off odor and flavor, and drinking it will cause your kids to have stomachaches and diarrhea. In addition to spoiled juice, improperly pasteurized juice can also make your kids sick. Pasteurization is a heating process that kills bacteria. If juice is unpasteurized or improperly pasteurized, bacteria can grow and cause severe food-borne illnesses, such as E. coli and cryptosporidium infections.
To keep your kids safe, it is important to follow food safety guidelines. If a juice has expired or is close to expiration, don't purchase it. Once your juice is opened, keep it refrigerated. Opened juice left out in warm temperatures will ferment, and make your kids sick. Refrigerated juice should be consumed within seven to 10 days. Your juice may not spoil in the refrigerator, but quality of your open juice decreases over time. If your open juice is kept in the refrigerator for too long, however, bacteria will grow, attack the sugars in the juice and cause fermentation.
- Food Safety and Inspection Service; Food Product Dating; April 2011
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Preventing Health Risks Associated with Drinking Unpasteurized or Untreated Juice; November 2005
- Shelf Life; How Long After Purchase Does Apple Juice Remain Safe and Tasty to Drink?; Janis Guggenheim; July 2009
- iParenting; The Hot Days of Summer Keeping Hydrated While on the Road; Carma Haley Shoemaker
- U.S. Department of Agriculture; Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Balancing Calories to Manage Weight; 2010