How Long Can Orange Juice Be Left Out At Room Temperature?

You bought a whole bunch of orange juice to use for your next brunch. Sweet, tart, and delicious, orange juice goes perfectly with your planned menu of soufflé pancakes and eggs benedict. Not only that, but it's an essential ingredient for your mimosas. The only problem? You forgot to put all the orange juice away in the refrigerator while unpacking your groceries and accidentally left a few containers out in your car for a few hours. Is that orange juice still safe to drink?

According to the FDA, leaving perishable food, which includes orange juice, at room temperature for more than two hours (or just one hour at high temperatures of 90 degrees or above) is a bad idea, as it could allow harmful bacteria like salmonella, E. coli, and Clostridium botulinum, to rapidly spread, which could lead to a serious food borne illness. The FDA also notes that the temperature in most cars can run higher than room temperature, and cautions against leaving groceries in your car for longer than an hour or two.

The type of orange juice affects how long it can be left out

As Keith R. Schneider, a University of Florida professor of food science and human nutrition explained to Vice, "Because it's super acidic, store-bought orange juice is one of those few items that won't make you sick if left out," noting that its high PH and acidic environment makes it difficult for bacteria to grow. Plus store bought orange juice has been pasteurized to kill off harmful bacteria to begin with. Regardless, you may still want to give that store bought orange juice a pass if it's been sitting out at room temperature for several hours, as fermentation may have set in, spoiling the juice — once that happens, lactic acid-producing organisms will start changing the taste of the orange juice to something less than palatable, warns Iupilon.

Fresh squeezed and unpasteurized juices have less protection against harmful bacteria, however, and should be tossed out immediately if it's been left out, warns Schneider. Other potential signs of spoilage in orange juice to look out for include bloated packaging, an unpleasant smell, a bad taste, a change in color, or the appearance of mold or sediments, explains Lacademie. If your orange juice shows any of those signs, it should be tossed out immediately.