I’ve been popping up vitamin supplements ever since i can remember, more so religiously when i got active into running. Like many other athletes, i take these supplements to aid in improving my health, ward-off potential diseases and to get those vital nutrients that may be lacking in my regular diet, which is often the case.
My supplements ranges from multivitamins, Vitamin-E, B-Complex, Omega-3, Fiber capsules, Ascorbic Acid, Iron to Malunggay and other herbal supplements. I know i have dietary deficiencies so i try to compensate by taking specific supplements like Omega-3 (we rarely eat fish at home) and B-Complex to combat the hang-overs once in a while.:-) On others days, i just take a multivitamin.
Last week, while browsing on pieces of these supplements contained in their aluminum foil-like packaging, i noticed the date that was embossed at the back cover which read: E-May 2012 which meant that the pill had expired last May! Ugh! I had been taking this supplement since last year and i didn’t notice that it has expired 2 months ago.
So, is it safe to take expired vitamins? The answers seem to be on the affirmative side. Taking expired multivitamins may not cause any harm, however as vitamins expire, they lose potency making them less effective. I asked my doctor brother who has been giving me samples of multivitamin supplements if it was safe and he himself admitted that has been taking them regularly only to find out they they have already expired.
Here’s what Doctors at the livestrong website has to say about expired vitamins:
The expiration date on vitamins, supplements and drugs covers the amount of time that the manufacturer can guarantee the product’s safety and full potency, according to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. Such dates are determined very conservatively so that vitamins and other products do not automatically become unsafe or lose their effect when the designated date passes. Often they remain good to use for months or even years after expiration, although there is no quick way for a consumer to judge their potency.
Vitamin manufacturers tend to be very conservative when putting expiration dates on their products, so you may still get full potency for months, or even years, after your pills expire. Expiration dates take potential shipping and stocking delays into account, and some companies give their products extra potency to account for any loss that happens on the way to store shelves. Many vitamins retain their full strength for up to five years, although two years is generally a safe time frame for full potency.
And from the jigsawhealth website:
Uncovering the Mystery of Expiration Dates
First, let’s start by explaining what the expiration date actually is.
The expiration date is the last day an item will be at its highest level of potency. This means that the manufacturer can successfully guarantee the quality of a product up until the expiration date. A quality manufacturer will ensure that their vitamins are at the listed strength on the label at the time of expiration. If the manufacturer does not list an expiration date, then they are liable for the listed strength for the entire time the product is in circulation.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require supplements to have expiration dates. However, quality manufacturers voluntarily list expiration dates because it is to their benefit. They test their vitamins rigorously to make sure they can successfully guarantee the label strength up until the expiration date.
So ultimately, just because a product reaches it’s expiration date, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer any good; it only means that label strength may be lost over time.
Expiration dates are extremely conservative. All vitamins start to break down the day they are manufactured. Vitamins deteriorate at different rates, so manufacturers will beef up the strength of some vitamins that tend to deteriorate faster, in order to hit the listed strength at the time of expiration.
If you were to purchase vitamins on the day they’re manufactured, in some cases you’re actually getting a higher strength than what’s listed on the label (to allow for deterioration over time). Many expiration dates are also padded to factor in such things as shelf time and shipping time.
Vitamin manufacturers expect that their vitamins will spend some time traveling to their warehouse destination, then spend some time on stores shelves, before arriving in the customer’s hands. Vitamin strength and expiration dates are carefully coordinated to guarantee the listed label strength up until the day of expiration.
Beyond the Expiration Date
Stored properly, vitamins can last four or five years, although the conservative recommendation is that they can easily last two years. Taking vitamins beyond their expiration date is generally safe. The only difference is that you may lose potency over time, so taking extremely old vitamins may not give you the desired results that you’re trying to achieve. But in case you have doubts, some vitamins have been known to last 10 years or longer without losing their label strength. (
So there. Also, according to a 1981 New York Times article, if you store vitamins properly like a dark storage space, such as a closet where you store linens, towels and clothing, they’re usually good for between four and five years.