When it comes to vitamins and supplements, it's important to know how long they last before they expire. Depending on the type of vitamin (gummies, tablets, chewables) and how they are stored, supplements typically have a shelf life of two years. While the FDA doesn't require manufacturers to include an expiration date on their products, some do so voluntarily. Expired vitamins are safe to take, as long as they are stored under the right conditions.
Other companies may choose to include a date of manufacture instead. According to holistic pharmacist Joanna Lewis of PharmD, if stored properly, most vitamins have a shelf life of up to two years. This means that they essentially “expire” two years after the date of manufacture. Like foods and beverages, vitamins and supplements have an average lifespan of about two years.
Vitamin expiration dates are intended to provide you with the information you need to ensure that you use the products in a timely manner and that you are consuming the amount of each vitamin listed on the label. It's important to ask your doctor before taking vitamins to make sure they're right for you. To be on the safe side, you should always check with your healthcare provider to see if you're okay with taking expired vitamins if you need supplements regularly. It's probably good practice to throw away any supplement that you've been taking for a long time, for more than two years, or that you're not sure about.
If you've ever stumbled upon an old bottle of vitamins or supplements and wondered if it's still safe to consume them, the answer isn't that simple. Throwing them in the toilet allows supplements to leak into the water supply and throwing them in the trash can cause accidental poisoning in children and animals. According to U. Ferira, potency simply means that the ingredients in the product remain the same or higher than the dose in which they appear in the “supplement information” panel on the back of the product.
The bottle that vitamins or supplements come in was created to ensure their potency and purity, making it the safest place to store them. Supplements are a generic term and vitamins can be included within that umbrella, explains nutrition scientist and director of scientific affairs at mbg Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph. D. Most manufacturers add antioxidant ingredients, such as tocopherols (vitamin E) and rosemary or ascorbyl palmitate, to protect oil-based supplements for longer periods of time, Ferira explains.
The Food and Drug Administration will market its products, but will intervene if a supplement is considered dangerous, according to the Colorado State University Extension. In any case, check the bottle of any supplement for recommendations on how to store it and follow them. The problem is, if you rely on a vitamin supplement to make sure you get a certain dose to help treat a medical condition or vitamin deficiency, a less potent vitamin may not be providing you with enough. But even though there's a lot of debate about whether vitamins and supplements are actually beneficial, that hasn't stopped Americans from consuming them.
In most cases, taking an expired vitamin doesn't cause any side effects, and expired supplements aren't usually dangerous. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require expiration dates on dietary supplements, including vitamins and minerals.