Is it safe to drink expired almond milk?

Almond milk has become a popular plant-based milk alternative, but there is some debate over whether it is safe to consume past the expiration date printed on the carton. This article will examine the risks and safety of drinking expired almond milk.

Quick Answers

– Almond milk can typically be consumed up to a week past its printed expiration date, if it was properly stored.

– The main risk of drinking expired almond milk is possible food spoilage and foodborne illness if harmful bacteria grew.

– Expired almond milk may undergo changes in texture, taste, smell, and appearance as it ages past its prime.

– Pasteurized, refrigerated almond milk poses lower risks when expired compared to non-pasteurized milk.

Is Expired Almond Milk Safe to Drink?

Almond milk that has passed its printed expiration date can generally still be safely consumed if it has been properly stored and handled. However, the risks increase the longer the almond milk is kept past its expiration date.

Many people routinely consume almond milk up to a week past the printed “best by” or “use by” date with no issues. However, extreme caution should be exercised when consuming almond milk more than 1-2 weeks past its expiration date due to the potential growth of spoilage organisms and pathogens.

Factors Affecting Expired Almond Milk Safety

Several key factors impact the safety and drinkability of expired almond milk:

  • Storage temperature – Almond milk stored at proper refrigeration temperatures of 40°F or below has a lower risk of spoilage and pathogenic bacterial growth compared to milk stored at room temperature or greater.
  • Container seals – Tightly sealed, unopened containers help prevent spoilage organism contamination and growth.
  • Method of processing – Pasteurized almond milk carries a much lower risk of foodborne illness from expired milk compared to raw, unpasteurized almond milk.
  • Age past expiration date – The older the almond milk is past its printed expiration date, the greater the risks due to increased microbial loads.

Signs Almond Milk Has Spoiled

Some clear signs that almond milk has spoiled and is unsafe to drink include:

  • Curdling – Almond milk normally has a thin, creamy consistency. Curdling and clumpy texture signals spoilage.
  • Mold growth – Mold on the surface of almond milk or inside the container indicates spoilage.
  • Sour odor – Rancid or sour smell means the milk is no longer fresh.
  • Lid bulging – If the container lid is bulging or leaking, gas from spoilage bacteria has built up inside.

If expired almond milk exhibits any of these warning signs, it should be discarded and not consumed.

Taste and Texture Changes

While not inherently dangerous, almond milk can undergo degradation in taste, texture, and appearance as it ages past its expiration date, even if dangerous microbial growth has not yet occurred. Changes to expect in expired almond milk include:

  • Muted almond flavor
  • Slightly sour or bitter taste
  • Grainy or curdled texture
  • Separation of ingredients – the solids and liquids may start to separate
  • Duller, slightly faded appearance

These aesthetic changes by themselves don’t necessarily mean the milk is unsafe, but do signify diminishing freshness and quality. Use common sense – the older the milk is past its expiration date, the less palatable it becomes.

Risk of Foodborne Illness

Possibly the greatest concern with expired almond milk is the potential increased risk of foodborne illness from pathogenic bacteria. Harmful microbes like Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and E. coli can grow if present.

Foodborne pathogens primarily come from contamination during production, packaging, distribution, or handling at home. While pasteurization used by most major brands kills these microbes, spoilage bacteria are still present.

Over time, spoilage organisms like molds, yeasts, and lactobacilli can multiply and degrade the milk. Proper refrigeration minimizes growth. But once past expiration, these spoilage bacteria may provide conditions for small amounts of pathogens to thrive, increasing to dangerous levels.

Proper food handling hygiene when opening, pouring, and storing almond milk reduces the initial pathogen load. But when expired, harmful microbial growth is more likely.

At-Risk Groups

While healthy adults may consume expired almond milk with minimal issues, certain vulnerable groups face higher risks of foodborne illness. At-risk groups include:

  • Infants and young children
  • Pregnant women
  • Elderly individuals
  • Those with weakened immune systems
  • Those with chronic diseases like diabetes or kidney disease

These populations should avoid consuming expired almond milk when the safety is in doubt.

Raw vs Pasteurized

Pasteurized almond milk carries a lower foodborne illness risk when expired compared to raw almond milk. The pasteurization process applies high heat to destroy any potential pathogenic bacteria present.

Raw, unpasteurized almond milk may naturally contain higher initial bacteria loads, including dangerous E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. Over time, these pathogens can multiply to hazardous levels if expired, improperly handled, and left unrefrigerated.

How Long After Expiration is Almond Milk Still Good?

So how long past the printed expiration date can you still safely drink almond milk?

  • 1-5 days – Best quality and freshness in this window.
  • 5-7 days – Still safe for most healthy adults if refrigerated.
  • 1-2 weeks – Exercise caution, inspect closely for signs of spoilage.
  • 2 weeks+ – Not recommended; discard almond milk if older than 2 weeks past expiration.

Note these timeframes assume proper continuous refrigeration at 40°F or below and an unopened, sealed container. The risk timeline decreases for almond milk left at room temperature.

How to Extend the Shelf Life of Almond Milk

Practical strategies to help extend the shelf life of almond milk include:

  • Refrigeration – Keep unopened almond milk stored at 40°F or lower at all times.
  • Freeze – Freeze unopened almond milk for 3-6 months of shelf life. Thaw in the refrigerator before use.
  • Smaller containers – Once opened, transfer to smaller containers to limit oxygen exposure.
  • Tight seals – Ensure opened cartons are properly resealed after each use.

Follow “use by” dates for best quality, but almond milk stored using these tips may retain safety up to 1 week past expiration.

What to Do With Expired Almond Milk

Once almond milk has clearly expired and is showing signs of spoilage, it should be discarded. Some safe disposal options include:

  • Pour down the sink drain (small amounts).
  • Place in the general trash in a sealed bag.
  • Use in gardening and compost – almond milk can feed soil microbes as it decomposes.
  • Contact your local waste management authority for additional guidance on safe food waste disposal.

Wash hands thoroughly after handling spoiled milk. Sanitize any surfaces the expired milk touched.

Can Expired Almond Milk Make You Sick?

Yes, consuming expired almond milk can make you sick if harmful microbes have grown or produced toxic byproducts. Possible foodborne illnesses from spoiled milk include:


  • Symptoms – Nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, fever, chills.
  • Onset – 6-72 hours after ingesting.
  • Duration – Typically 4-7 days.
  • Risks – Dehydration, especially in vulnerable groups.

E. Coli

  • Symptoms – Severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, vomiting.
  • Onset – 2-8 days after ingesting.
  • Duration – 5-10 days.
  • Risks – Hemolytic uremic syndrome, kidney failure.

Staph Aureus

  • Symptoms – Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps.
  • Onset – 30 minutes to 8 hours after ingesting.
  • Duration – 24-48 hours.
  • Risks – Severe dehydration.

Seek medical treatment if experiencing concerning digestive symptoms after drinking expired almond milk.

How to Check Almond Milk for Freshness

To evaluate whether unexpired almond milk is still fresh and safe, examine the following:

  • Color – Should be creamy white. Yellow or tan hues signify age.
  • Smell – Fresh almond milk has a mild, nutty scent. Rancid or sour odors mean spoilage.
  • Texture – A smooth, velvety consistency that pours easily. Separation, sliminess, or curdling indicates spoilage.
  • Taste – Should taste mildly like almonds. Bitter, sour, or unpleasant flavors mean the milk is past prime quality.
  • Container – No leaking, bulging, or rust around the seams. Tight seal when closed.

Additionally, ensure the almond milk is stored properly refrigerated at 40°F or below. Finally, check the printed expiration or use by date. While not a perfect gauge, freshest taste and microbial safety is most likely before this imprinted date.

The Bottom Line

Drinking expired almond milk comes with increased risks of foodborne illness, but the milk may retain safety up to 1 week past its printed date. The key is whether harmful pathogenic bacteria had conditions to multiply to dangerous levels during storage. Proper refrigeration provides some insurance against spoilage.

While not ideal, consuming almond milk that is slightly expired poses minimal risks for most healthy adults. However, vulnerable groups like pregnant women, infants, and the immunocompromised should avoid any expired almond milk. When in doubt, apply the general rule – if the milk smells, looks, or tastes off, err on the side of caution and throw it out.

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