Is It Safe to Take Expired Vitamins?

If you just realized that daily vitamin you’ve been taking actually expired months ago, there’s no need to panic. The expiration date listed on vitamins is based on potency, not safety. As long as there is no mold growing on your vitamins, you can breathe easy. You might not reap the same benefit from those pills, but you also likely haven’t been putting your health at risk.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require expiration dates on dietary supplements, including vitamins and minerals. Manufacturers may choose to print them on products—and if so, they may be phrased as “expires on,” “best by,” or “use by.”

If a manufacturer chooses to include a date, the FDA requires they have “valid data demonstrating that it is not false or misleading.” In other words, manufacturers should have internal research verifying that potency is maintained through that date.


Expired vitamins are safe to take. At the expiration date, the product should still contain 100% of the dietary supplement ingredients listed on the label, as long as it was stored under correct conditions.

After such date, those amounts can progressively decline. It’s no cause for concern over potential harm or side effects, but it does mean you may not get the specified dosage. You’re better off tossing them and replacing them with a new package.

There is one caveat to the above: If your expired vitamins have visible mold growth or a very strange odor, that’s a red flag. They may be risky to consume due to microbiological contamination. Stop taking them and dispose of them properly.

Prenatal Vitamins

Pregnancy is one time when it’s particularly important to discard and replace expired vitamins. Prenatal vitamins contain folic acid, which is essential for reducing the risk of neural tube defects in the developing fetus. If you’re using expired prenatal vitamins, you risk not getting the correct amount of folic acid.

When and Why Vitamins Expire

How quickly a vitamin expires depends on several factors—some of which are related to manufacturing and others related to your own habits.

  • Form of vitamin: Gummy vitamins and liquids tend to expire more quickly than tablets, capsules, and softgels.
  • Type of container: Some vitamins retain their potency longer in opaque containers versus those with a clear container, due to the effect of UV rays from sunlight.
  • Type of container cap: Similarly, the type of cap—screw-on versus flip-top—may impact shelf life. If a flip-top cap does not create an appropriate seal when closed, vitamins are exposed to more humidity, which makes them break down more quickly.
  • Storage conditions: If you store vitamins in a high-humidity area like a bathroom medicine cabinet, they may deteriorate more quickly. Similarly, avoid exposing them to a lot of light. A cool, dark cabinet is best for most products.
  • Contamination: If you reach into the vitamin container every morning after getting the kids’ lunch ready, you could contaminate the bottle with food residue or bacterial particles and impact shelf-life.

Shelf-Life of Individual Vitamins

The shelf-life of vitamins may also depend on the type of vitamin. For example, some research has suggested that certain vitamins may break down more quickly.

  • Vitamin C: This vitamin is particularly susceptible to deliquescence, a process in which the vitamin starts to absorb some of the relative humidity in the air. As it absorbs moisture, it loses potency. If the product isn’t packaged properly, or if you’re opening and closing the container frequently in a humid environment, the vitamins will break down more quickly.
  • Thiamin: One of the more unstable B vitamins, thiamin is also affected by moisture via deliquescence. Keeping it away from humid environments is best.
  • Vitamin K: When combined in a multivitamin that also contains minerals, Vitamin K may degrade more quickly.

The shelf life of multivitamins is based on the specific vitamin that is quickest to lose its potency.

Company Policies on Expiration Dates

Because it’s not required by the FDA, each company will make its own decision regarding if and how to label expiration dates on vitamins. At the time of publishing, these are policies of some of the most common supplement manufacturers:

  • Centrum: All Centrum products are assigned an expiration date based on the least stable ingredient in the product. All ingredients should be present in the amount listed on the label until the last day of the month of expiration.
  • NOW Foods: All NOW supplements have an expiration date printed on the package. If proper storage procedures are followed, products will retain full potency through this date.
  • Swanson Vitamins: Products will either contain a best-by date or a manufacture date. If they contain a manufacture date, the company recommends that most products be consumed within two to three years of such date. Liquids and probiotics should be consumed within one year.
  • Nature Made: Vitamins and other dietary supplements include an expiration date and potency is guaranteed through this date. The way the date is set varies based on the type of product.
  • Priority One Nutritional Supplements: These do not currently contain expiration dates. The company states that it is working to authenticate expiration dates with stability testing. It currently recommends a two-year shelf life from the time of purchase.

Disposal of Expired Vitamins

Take an inventory of your vitamin stash. If you discover any expired bottles, dispose of them properly. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends the following steps to dispose of expired vitamins or other supplements:

  1. Remove the pills from the original container.
  2. Place the vitamins in a disposable container or bag with coffee grinds, cat litter, or another undesirable substance. When they’re mixed with these, curious children or pets are less likely to find them in the trash.
  3. Close the container or seal the bag.
  4. Place the entire container/bag in the trash.

The EPA does not recommend flushing expired vitamins down the toilet. The substances may pass through wastewater treatment plants and end up in lakes, rivers, or other sources of drinking water.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Dietary Supplement Labeling Guide: Chapter I. General Dietary Supplement Labeling. 2005.

  2. Andrews KW, Roseland JM, Gusev PA, et al. Analytical ingredient content and variability of adult multivitamin/mineral products: National estimates for the Dietary Supplement Ingredient Database. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017;105(2):526-539. doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.134544

  3. Greenberg JA, Bell SJ, Guan Y, Yu YH. Folic acid supplementation and pregnancy: more than just neural tube defect prevention. Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2011;4(2):52-9.

  4. NSF International. Stability Testing for Dietary Supplements. 2011.

  5. Hiatt AN, Ferruzzi MG, Taylor LS, Mauer LJ. Impact of deliquescence on the chemical stability of vitamins B1, B6, and C in powder blends. J Agric Food Chem. 2008;56(15):6471-9. doi:10.1021/jf800709f

  6. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Dispose of Medicines, Vitamins, and Other Supplements Properly.

Additional Reading

By Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH
Chrissy Carroll is a Registered Dietitian and USAT Level I Triathlon Coach, and the author of "Eat to Peak: Sports Nutrition for Runners and Triathletes"