Chai tea is a culinary blend of sweetness, spiciness and creaminess that originated in India. In fact, chai literally means tea in that country. You’ll often find chai tea concentrate on grocery store shelves, or you can create your own and store it for up to 10 days before it expires. The sweet in the concentrate comes from sugar and vanilla, the spice from seasonings including ginger, pepper, allspice and cloves, and the cream from milk. Similar to evaporated milk, store-bought chai tea concentrate can have a long shelf life. However, drinking the expired concentrate is not recommended.
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Similar to evaporated milk, chai tea concentrate often has a shelf life of 12 to 23 months. After that, bacteria may begin to grow in the concentrate. That means you risk food poisoning when you drink expired chai tea concentrate. If you suffer food poisoning from drinking expired chai tea concentrate, you are likely to experience flu-like symptoms, including an upset stomach and diarrhea. You also may have stomach cramps and a fever.
Time Frame and Treatment
Food poisoning symptoms may develop within hours of consuming the expired concentrate or might take several days to develop. Sickness due to food poisoning usually lasts one day to 10 days. If your case of food poisoning is mild, your symptoms are likely to be of short duration and clear up on their own. The severity will depend on the type of bacteria making you ill, as will the treatment. In the majority of food poisoning cases, medication is not necessary. In rare cases, food poisoning leads to hospitalization, typically due to dehydration. Your risk for dehydration goes up when you vomit frequently and have diarrhea, so it’s important to continue drinking fluids when you suffer a bout of food poisoning. At the hospital, you will be treated with fluids and possibly antibiotics that are given intravenously, or through an IV. Visit a doctor immediately if you have signs of dehydration, including excessive thirst, little or no urination, dry mouth and severe dizziness or weakness.
Severe Symptoms and Who is Most Vulnerable
Also seek immediate medical attention if you have severe symptoms of food poisoning after consuming expired chai tea concentrate. These include vomiting blood or blood in your diarrhea, severe diarrhea that lasts more than three days, an inability to keep fluids down due to vomiting, a temperature of 101.5 or higher, muscle weakness, double vision, and difficulty speaking or swallowing. Some people are more vulnerable to the effects of food poisoning than are others. Visit a doctor immediately if you suffer food poisoning and are elderly, are an alcoholic, are receiving steroid or dialysis treatment, or have AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes. Also seek immediate medical attention if you are pregnant; some types of bacteria can cause a stillbirth or an abortion of your fetus. Prompt treatment with antibiotics may help prevent the bacteria causing your food poisoning from affecting your baby.
If you make your own chai tea concentrate or open unexpired chai tea concentrate but don’t use it all, you can refrigerate it at a temperature of 38 to 40 F for up to 10 days. Bacteria grow rapidly in milk above 45 F. You must use an airtight container when you refrigerate the concentrate. Such a container prevents contamination as well as absorption of flavors from other foods in your refrigerator. Refrigeration slows bacterial growth, but doesn’t halt it. If you leave your chai tea concentrate in the refrigerator for too long, bacteria will produce toxic substances that freezing or heating cannot destroy, according to “The Encyclopedia of Nutrition and Good Health,” by nutritionist Robert A. Ronzio. If you freeze your chai tea concentrate immediately after opening it or making it, however, you will prevent bacterial growth.