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Pharmacy and Medications

Consumption of expired juice.

04/09/2010

Question:

My two year old drank approximately 20-24 ounces of 13 month old expired juice. It was sold to me that way. We took her to the ER and they informed us that GI problems can occur. The next evening, she did have a very loose stool. I was just wondering what happens to the juice when it is that old? Is there any bacteria? Fermentation? The juice was a mixture of apple, cherry, orange, pineapple, and grape juice. Thank You.

Answer:

Thank you for your question.

When any type of food passes its expiration date, it may become unsafe to consume due to bacterial growth. Fermentation is another word for the process of bacteria digesting food (brewers use specific organisms that eat sugars and ferment them into alcohol), so it is accurate to say out-of-date juice has "fermented".

It is impossible to know the exact types of bacteria that may have grown inside an out-of-date juice bottle without getting a microbiologist to culture the juice.  This is almost never done in the case of food poisoning unless the cases are widespread and/or unusual.  Culturing food samples will not help the doctor treat you any better.

When someone consumes out-of-date food, their body recognizes toxic parts of the bacteria inside their stomach and tries to get those out as quickly as possible. As a result, the individual will have upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The best thing to do in this situation is keep hydrated by drinking lots of fluids and let it run its course. 

This is why the ER sent your two-year-old home with you. Your body is usually pretty good at getting bad stuff out, and if you take medicines to stop diarrhea, the toxic bacteria will stay in your body even longer.

If someone eats a particularly dangerous bacteria  or food that contains an infective virus, they can become infected.  The bacteria or virus will stay in the body and start to grow or multiply. In these cases, specific medical treatment is usually required.

So how do you tell if you have a simple case of food poisoning or if you are infected? Unfortunately there is no way for the average person to tell for sure whether or not they are infected with a bacteria or virus; that is a medical professional's job. There are signs and symptoms that are clues that you may be infected, and if you experience any of them you should seek medical attention immediately. They are:

1. temperature greater than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit
2. bloody stool
3. not being able to keep fluids down
4. decreased urination
5. dizziness
6. severe dehydration
7. diarrhea or vomiting for longer than three days
8. difficulty breathing.

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should go to your doctor and report what is happening immediately.

Submitted by Matthew Chamberlain, PharmD Candidate
Midwestern University College of Pharmacy

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Response by:

Carmen M Hadley, RPh, CSPI
Formerly:
Clinical Instructor
College of Pharmacy
The Ohio State University