I’m sure I’m not the only one who has seen an expiry date on a product and wondered if it’s still good. Without a doubt, I have thrown caution to the wind and eaten something that had expired. I’m here to tell the tale of it, so obviously I have been lucky so far. Food is probably the most common source of the “best before, not bad after” scenario. In fact if you google it, you can find several sources willing to tell you how long you can continue to consume something past the labels expiry date.
The same goes for drugs and disinfectants. When registering products, a regulatory agency requires a manufacturer to conduct testing and provide data to prove that the drug or disinfectant being registered will remain effective for the products shelf life. I’ll be truthful, in most cases the drug or disinfectant is still effective after the expiry date. The question is for how long after? That question is harder to answer. The shelf life a manufacturer provides is intended to ensure there is a reasonable amount of time from when a product is manufactured to when it is used. A fail safe may be built in, as let’s be honest, we know people are going to use the product beyond the expiry date found on the label, and of course, we do not want a product to become less efficacious as it approaches its expiry date. The last thing we want is for a drug to not treat the infection, or cease the migraine, and of course, when it comes to disinfectants, we do not want to run the risk that the disinfectant to be the cause of an outbreak, not killing what the facility needs it to kill.
This is why it is SO important to ensure you know the shelf life and expiry date of the disinfectants you are using. The truth is, I have worked with hospitals that upon investigation, we realized the reason an outbreak was not brought under control was because the disinfectant they were using had expired and had no “killing juice” left. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the picture that is the inspiration for this week’s blog. It was sent to me by an acquaintance. This was a disinfectant wipe product that was in an exam room at a hospital and was being used to disinfect the shared patient care equipment. Would you want that equipment used on you? I’m comfortable with a 6 month window to use drugs and disinfectants past their expiry date, but four (4) years?! Well, I would be refusing to allow any of that equipment to be used on me until after it was cleaned with a product that had not yet expired, and I would seriously be questioning the infection prevention and control program of the facility.
HAIs kill almost 100,000 people per year. Please don’t let the reason for catching an HAI be the result of an expired disinfectant.
PS – Yes, this is one of the products my company manufacturers. I’m not happy the product is 4 years old, but this is a teaching moment I cannot in good conscious pass by.