Do Vitamins and Supplements Expire?

Wondering if it’s bad to take expired supplements? Here’s what to know if you’re not sure about the status of those supplement bottles and how to properly store them.

Have you ever unearthed a bottle of vitamins or herbs that you bought intending to make them a part of your daily routine? Maybe you've gotten busy and forgotten you had them or tried something new instead, but now you're ready – and curious about whether or not that supplement is still OK to take.

There are some important guidelines to keep in mind when understanding supplement expiration dates.

Do supplements expire?

Yes, supplements do expire, but it has more to do with their potency and quality than safety concerns. That date stamped on the bottle is important. This expiration date should be your guide – and there's a science to how it got there. Nature's Way laboratory teams are required by regulatory bodies to validate any expiration date they give a product, meaning they do studies on the raw materials and test the product throughout its shelf life to guarantee 100% potency through whatever expiration date put on the bottle or box.

Do supplements go bad?

Your senses can be one of the first clues to whether a product is past its shelf life. Look at it, smell it, and if needed, check out the texture. If anything is different or “off,” throw it away and replace it. Think about it like milk – if it smells odd or is lumpy, something isn't right and you shouldn't consume it.

Supplement storage rules to know

If your supplement doesn't require refrigeration, here are a few tips to preserve its potency and efficacy:

  • Keep at room temperature in a cool and dry space.
  • Find a dark location to protect against any light or the sun.
  • Always keep bottle tightly closed.
  • Don't store them in the bathroom, which tends to be hot and humid.
  • Keep them in their original packaging. If you do use a weekly dispenser, be sure it seals tight.
  • Keep away from children and pets.
  • Put them somewhere convenient to your routine so you don't forget to take them.

What about specialty supplements like probiotics?

Probiotic come in two versions: refrigerated and shelf-stable. If the directions say the product should be refrigerated, that means refrigeration is necessary to keep the probiotics potent. They will start losing potency quickly if not refrigerated, generally around five to seven days. Shelf-stable probiotics, on the other hand, can be kept at room temperature. Most Fortify® Probiotics even have a specially designed bottle that actually scavenges moisture from the air to help keep the probiotics inside potent throughout the expiration date. However, that doesn't mean you can keep your bottle in the bathroom or your gym bag – a climate-controlled environment is best.

What to know about liquid supplements

Liquid multivitamins and other liquid formulas may require special storage – some must be refrigerated after opening. (Check out the label for directions so you know what's required.) Besides refrigeration, it's important to keep the product as clean and sanitary as possible. While many liquid formulas do have preservatives added to help the product stay as fresh as possible, drinking straight from the bottle is one of the biggest ways to introduce bacteria into the supplement. If you drink from the included dosage cap, be sure to rinse it thoroughly before you put it back on. In general, it’s best not to consume a liquid formula past its expiration date, so if you need help remembering to take your daily dose, set a reminder in your phone or put a sticky note on your refrigerator door to remind you.

What to do with expired products

To properly get rid of vitamins and supplements, check the packaging for instructions. In general, liquid supplements can be washed down the sink and solid supplements can be thrown in the garbage – do not flush them down the toilet. If there are no clear guidelines, the FDA advises to follow these simple steps before trashing. Pay attention to the packaging, too! Many Nature's Way bottles and boxes are recyclable, so check your local guidelines and help us care for the planet we call home.