Oat milk has become an increasingly popular alternative to dairy milk, especially for those with lactose intolerance or a preference for plant-based options. However, with its rise in popularity comes questions about its safety and potential risks.
One common concern is whether or not oat milk can cause food poisoning. In this article, we’ll explore the facts and myths surrounding this topic to help you make informed decisions about consuming oat milk.
So, can you get food poisoning from oat milk? Let’s find out.
Can You Get Food Poisoning From Oat Milk?
The short answer is yes, you can get food poisoning from oat milk. While oat milk does not contain any preservatives that could potentially make you sick, it can still harbor harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
Oat milk is made through a fermentation process, which means it contains naturally occurring microorganisms called bacteria. These bacteria help ferment the milk and produce lactic acid as they feed on sugars in the milk. This creates a sour taste and smell that is characteristic of oat milk.
However, if the oat milk is left out at room temperature for more than two hours or shows signs of spoilage, it can potentially cause food poisoning. Symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.
Furthermore, opened oat milk is exposed to oxidation that can cause rancidity. This means that the liquid is exposed to air, which brings bacteria, spores, and microbial growth. When oat milk is no longer fresh, it becomes less nutritious as the vitamins and minerals are degraded over time.
Understanding Food Poisoning
Food poisoning occurs when a person consumes contaminated or undercooked foods tainted with germs such as Campylobacter, E. coli, norovirus, Salmonella, or Vibrio. These germs can cause intestinal inflammation, which leads to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping.
When a person drinks spoiled oat milk that contains harmful bacteria, these bacteria can cause food poisoning. The symptoms of food poisoning can be severe and may lead to dehydration and other complications. It’s important to note that food poisoning can affect anyone, but it’s especially dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, and young children.
To avoid food poisoning from oat milk, it’s essential to store it correctly. Because oat milk is fermented, it needs to be kept between 40 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. If it gets too hot, the bacteria in the milk will die off and the milk will spoil. If you plan to refrigerate your oat milk, make sure you do it right away. If you want to freeze your oat milk, you can do so without worrying about spoiling it.
If you suspect that your oat milk may be spoiled or has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours, it’s best to discard it and not consume it. It’s also important to pay attention to any recalls or public health alerts related to oat milk or any other food products to avoid potential contamination and food poisoning.
How Oat Milk Is Made
Oat milk is made through a process of soaking and blending oats with water, then straining the mixture to remove the solids. Unlike other types of milk, which are pasteurized, oat milk is not treated with heat during production. Instead, it is fermented or cultured. This means that the naturally occurring microorganisms in the oats are allowed to grow and multiply, which helps to break down the starches and sugars in the oats and create a creamy texture.
During the fermentation process, the bacteria in the oat milk produce lactic acid as they feed on the sugars in the milk. This creates a sour taste and smell that is characteristic of oat milk. The longer the oat milk is allowed to ferment, the more sour it will become.
To stop the fermentation process and prevent spoilage, oat milk can be heated above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This kills off all the bacteria present in the oat milk, so it won’t spoil. However, heating oat milk can also alter its texture and taste, so many people prefer to consume it in its fermented state.
Possible Contamination Sources
There are a few potential contamination sources that could lead to food poisoning from oat milk. One of the most common sources is improper storage. If oat milk is not stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, it can become contaminated with harmful bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. It is important to always check the expiration date before consuming oat milk and to discard it immediately if it has an off-odor, an unusual taste, or an odd color.
Another potential source of contamination is cross-contamination. Oats themselves are not known to cause food poisoning, but if they come into contact with other contaminated foods or surfaces, they can become contaminated as well. For example, if oats are stored next to raw meat products or are cooked in contaminated water, they can become contaminated and lead to food poisoning.
Finally, if oat milk is made with milk that has not been pasteurized, it can contain harmful bacteria such as salmonella, listeria, and E. coli. It is important to check that the oat milk is made with pasteurized milk or is labeled “UHT” (ultra-high temperature) to ensure that no bacteria are present.
Oat Milk Safety Regulations
To ensure the safety of oat milk, it is important to follow certain regulations when handling and storing it. Firstly, always check the expiration date before consuming oat milk. If the oat milk is past its expiration date, it is best to discard it and not take any chances.
Secondly, store the oat milk in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Exposure to sunlight can cause the milk to spoil more quickly. Additionally, always make sure to shake the oat milk before drinking to ensure that any settled particles are mixed in.
If you notice any signs of spoilage, such as an off-odor, unusual taste, or odd color, discard the oat milk immediately. Spoiled oat milk can cause food-borne illnesses and may be contaminated with dangerous bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella.
Lastly, avoid leaving oat milk at room temperature for more than two hours. Bacteria thrive in warm environments and can multiply rapidly in the milk, leading to food poisoning. If you have any doubts about the freshness or safety of your oat milk, it is best to err on the side of caution and discard it.
Symptoms Of Oat Milk-Related Food Poisoning
If you consume oat milk that is contaminated with harmful bacteria, you may experience symptoms of food poisoning. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. In some cases, food poisoning from oat milk can lead to more serious health complications such as dehydration, fever, and even hospitalization.
The bacteria that can cause food poisoning from oat milk include Cronobacter sakazakii and Clostridium botulinum. While infection related to Cronobacter sakazakii is rare, vulnerable and immunocompromised populations may be more susceptible to infection. Symptoms of illness could include fever, vomiting, and urinary tract infection.
Clostridium botulinum may cause a severe form of food poisoning that can begin from six hours to two weeks after eating contaminated food. Symptoms may include double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, and muscle weakness. Botulism poisoning can cause respiratory paralysis, resulting in death unless assistance with breathing (mechanical ventilation) is provided.
It is important to note that even if the oat milk does not look or smell spoiled, it may still be contaminated with harmful bacteria. Therefore, if you experience any symptoms of food poisoning after consuming oat milk or any other food product, seek medical attention immediately. Additionally, if you have any suspicions that your oat milk may be spoiled or contaminated, it is best to discard it.
Tips For Safe Consumption Of Oat Milk
To ensure safe consumption of oat milk, it is important to follow these tips:
1. Check the expiration date: Before purchasing oat milk, check the expiration date to ensure that it is fresh. Avoid purchasing products that are close to or past their expiration date.
2. Store properly: Proper storage is critical for extending the shelf life of oat milk. Store unopened cartons of shelf-stable oat milk in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Once opened, store in the refrigerator and consume within 10 days.
3. Avoid contamination: When handling oat milk, make sure to use clean utensils and avoid cross-contamination with other foods.
4. Check for spoilage: Before consuming, check the oat milk for signs of spoilage such as a sour smell or taste, curdling, or discoloration. If you notice any of these signs, discard the product immediately.
5. Freeze excess oat milk: If you have excess oat milk that you cannot consume within 10 days of opening, consider freezing it in ice-cube trays. This will extend its shelf life and prevent waste.
By following these tips, you can safely enjoy the benefits of oat milk without the risk of food poisoning.