Every day, millions of us are using supplements—including vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, or enzymes. A 2020 study from the Council for Reasonable Nutrition (CRN) found that 73 percent of American adults take supplements regularly.
However, as we’ve told you before, the supplement industry is unregulated—meaning it’s up to the consumer to determine if a supplement is safe and effective. The good news is that the majority of supplements on the market are safe to take. There are tools you can use to help you read labels and evaluate a product.
One thing you might not be aware of, though, is that many supplements don’t come with an expiration date. Does this lack of an expiry date increase the risk of adverse side effects?
No FDA Requirements
According to the National Library of Medicine, multivitamins are the most popular form of supplement in the marketplace. However, they don’t come with expiration dates.
This is partly because supplement expiration dates are not required by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Some brands do provide a “use by” or “best before” date on their products, but that’s done voluntarily.
Why are the expiration dates missing? Why are there no regulations? Well, as Healthline explained, that’s because vitamins don’t expire like other over-the-counter medicines.
“Vitamins don’t ‘expire’ in the traditional sense,” the site reads. “Instead of becoming unsafe to ingest, they simply become less potent. That’s because most of the ingredients in vitamins and dietary supplements break down gradually. This means that they become less effective over time.”
When To Throw Your Supplements Away
The shelf life of supplements does vary. When stored properly, vitamins in tablet form can last for years. However, chewables and gummies tend to degrade faster.
If you’ve had a supplement in your medicine cabinet for a while, how can you tell if they are less potent or expired? Medical News Today claimed that you should “immediately dispose of vitamins” if you see signs of mold, a change in color, or if you detect a strange smell.
However, if you have children or pets in the house, it’s not as easy as tossing the vitamins into the trash. You don’t want to risk anyone getting sick if they get into the garbage. The FDA advised mixing vitamins with coffee grounds or cat litter and putting that mixture into a sealed bag before throwing the entire bag into the trash.
Another option is to throw out your expired supplements at a local hazardous waste center or collection site. To find an appropriate waste center near you, simply visit the Earth 911 Database and search for “household hazardous waste” sites near your zip code.
While multivitamins may not have a set expiration date and are typically safe to consume indefinitely, it’s important to know the warning signs of a supplement that is unsafe to take.