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Supplement Expiration and Best By Dates

Question:
What is the difference between the "Best By" date and the "Date of Manufacture" on a supplement label? How do I know how long my supplement will last before it "goes bad"?

Answer:
As explained by ConsumerLab.com's president, Tod Cooperman, M.D. in a New York Times article, the "Best By" or "Use By" date on a supplement label indicates how long a supplement is expected to last before its potency falls below 100% of the listed amount. Although the FDA does not require supplement labels to provide an expiration date, companies which include these dates are required to have stability data to support their claims. The expiration date refers to the shelf life of the unopened container stored under the conditions specified on the label.

A "Date of Manufacture" simply indicates when the supplement was made, not how long the ingredients remain stable and potent. Typically, supplements are stable and potent if properly maintained for two to three years, but this depends on the product. Exposure to heat and/or moisture can significantly shorten shelf life.

Be sure to take extra care when looking at the date listed on probiotics supplements. Some may list the number of cells in a product as the amount "at the time of manufacture" — a practice which is misleading and violates FDA regulations. You can learn more about this in the "ConsumerTips" section of ConsumerLab.com's Probiotic Supplements Review, as well as in this interview with Dr. Tod Cooperman on Reuter's Health.

Learn more about how to properly store supplements:



Do vitamins, minerals and nutritional supplements lose effectiveness with exposure to high temperatures and is it safe to order supplements by mail in the summer? >>

Sometimes my powdered supplements get clumpy. Should I be concerned? >>

Can heat and humidity destroy whey protein and other sports nutrition supplements (e.g., creatine, BCAAs, digestive enzymes) during shipping or while storing at home? >>

If I buy NAC as a loose powder in a large bag, as opposed to in tablet form, will it spoil? I've heard it can spoil or degrade into a harmful by-product. >>

Is it true that I should not keep magnesium supplements in a daily pill pack mixed with other supplements and medicines? >>

Is it okay to freeze fish oil to keep it from becoming rancid? >>

Tablets I purchased are becoming "crumbly" after a few weeks and are easy to break. Is there a problem with this supplement? >>

Can CoQ10 or ubiquinol be ruined by heat? I recently purchased several bottles of Qunol Plus from Costco.com and they arrived hot. The soft gels are not melted, but I am concerned. >>

See other recent and popular questions >>
COMMENTS

Roy16627   March 25, 2018
I get most of my Rx drugs and supplements by mail, but never during hot months or winter freezes. I keep out only what I need, then store the rest in double-sealed plastic bags with desiccant packs at 40F in my fridge. To avoid condensation I always bring them back to room temp before opening a sealed bag.
..
I'm hoping to extend their life beyond the use-by-date. It seems to be working.
...
The desiccant I'm using for this is: Stack-On Safe 'N Dry Spad-60 packets by DESICCARE, INC. These are a combination silica jell & activated charcoal desiccant packs, and are available as 10 packs for about $12 by ordering them from Wal-Mart.
..
I'm also putting these in my dry hot cereals and beans to protect from yeast or mold.

Martin13887   April 2, 2017
One of the supplement manufactures whose products I like and use, Swanson, only gives you the date of manufacture on their product labels. I think they should give you both the date of manufacture, as well as the "Best By" date. If I had to choose one or the other, my preference is the Best By Date.


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This CL Answer initially posted on 7/16/2016. Last updated 3/22/2018.
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