WASHINGTON — When food in the pantry goes bad, what do you do with it? How about with a COVID-19 test? Can you still use it, or should it go in the trash? It depends on the test.
Can you use an at-home COVID-19 test after the expiration date on the box?
The FDA and websites and spokespeople for manufacturers of some of the most popular at-home antigen tests:
- Abbot’s Binax Now
- iHealth’s rapid test
- Quidel’s QuikVue
- Intrivo’s On/Go
Tests should not be used after their expiration date— but for some, that isn't the date on the box.
WHAT WE FOUND
Like a box of cereal or can of soup, you’ll find the expiration date clearly printed on the packaging.
An FDA spokesperson explains to us, certain components in tests may degrade over time, which could mean they don’t work as well.
Product websites and instruction sheets will all tell you not to use a test after its expiration date, but depending on the test, that might not be the date on the package.
“Since stability testing necessarily takes time, the FDA works with manufacturers to extend the expiration date of their COVID-19 tests as additional supportive stability data becomes available,” the FDA spokesperson said in an email.
So some tests hit stores with a shelf life for, say, six months. If a company can prove to the FDA that it’s reliable for longer, perhaps for nine months, that shelf life can be extended.
That’s what happened with iHealth and On/Go tests. To find out how long it’s really usable, use the lot number to look up the corresponding new expiration date here:
"Due to shelf-life extensions from the FDA, you can potentially use an at-home COVID-19 test after the expiration date," an On/Go spokesperson said in part. "We’ll continue to apply to the FDA for shelf-life extensions every three months based on our stability studies, and the new shelf-lives for our tests will apply to tests already produced as well as future production."
The FDA spokesperson says if you have a recently expired test at home, it actually might be worth holding on to for a little bit to see if that shelf life will be extended. But, again, don’t use it unless it officially is extended.
A spokesperson for Abbott tells us the expiration date printed on Binax Now tests applies. Despite the product's shelf life extension, the earlier manufactured tests had components with varying use-by dates, and you want to make sure the whole kit is still effective.
The Quickview test is FDA-authorized for 16 months. With these, stick to the printed expiration date and don’t use the test afterward.
Always make sure it’s been stored properly and you read instructions clearly.