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DO MEDICATIONS REALLY EXPIRE? Try An Experiment With Your Mother-In-Law
mombu ^ | September 9, 2002 | Richard Altschuler

Posted on 08/04/2012 5:49:06 AM PDT by JoeProBono

Does the expiration date on a bottle of a medication mean anything? If a bottle of Tylenol, for example, says something like "Do not use after June 1998," and it is August 2002, should you take the Tylenol? Should you discard it? Can you get hurt if you take it? Will it simply have lost its potency and do you no good?

In other words, are drug manufacturers being honest with us when they put an expiration date on their medications, or is the practice of dating just another drug industry scam, to get us to buy new medications when the old ones that purportedly have "expired" are still perfectly good?

These are the pressing questions I investigated after my mother-in-law recently said to me, "It doesn't mean anything," when I pointed out that the Tylenol she was about to take had "expired" 4 years and a few months ago. I was a bit mocking in my pronouncement -- feeling superior that I had noticed the chemical corpse in her cabinet -- but she was equally adamant in her reply, and is generally very sage about medical issues.

So I gave her a glass of water with the purportedly "dead" drug, of which she took 2 capsules for a pain in the upper back. About a half hour later she reported the pain seemed to have eased up a bit. I said "You could be having a placebo effect," not wanting to simply concede she was right about the drug, and also not actually knowing what I was talking about. I was just happy to hear that her pain had eased, even before we had our evening cocktails and hot tub dip (we were in "Leisure World," near Laguna Beach, California, where the hot tub is bigger than most Manhattan apartments, and "Heaven," as generally portrayed, would be raucous by comparison).

Upon my return to NYC and high-speed connection, I immediately scoured the medical databases and general literature for the answer to my question about drug expiration labeling. And voila, no sooner than I could say "Screwed again by the pharmaceutical industry," I had my answer. Here are the simple facts:

First, the expiration date, required by law in the United States, beginning in 1979, specifies only the date the manufacturer guarantees the full potency and safety of the drug -- it does not mean how long the drug is actually "good" or safe to use. Second, medical authorities uniformly say it is safe to take drugs past their expiration date -- no matter how "expired" the drugs purportedly are. Except for possibly the rarest of exceptions, you won't get hurt and you certainly won't get killed. A contested example of a rare exception is a case of renal tubular damage purportedly caused by expired tetracycline (reported by G. W. Frimpter and colleagues in JAMA, 1963;184:111). This outcome (disputed by other scientists) was supposedly caused by a chemical transformation of the active ingredient. Third, studies show that expired drugs may lose some of their potency over time, from as little as 5% or less to 50% or more (though usually much less than the latter). Even 10 years after the "expiration date," most drugs have a good deal of their original potency. So wisdom dictates that if your life does depend on an expired drug, and you must have 100% or so of its original strength, you should probably toss it and get a refill, in accordance with the cliché, "better safe than sorry." If your life does not depend on an expired drug -- such as that for headache, hay fever, or menstrual cramps -- take it and see what happens.

One of the largest studies ever conducted that supports the above points about "expired drug" labeling was done by the US military 15 years ago, according to a feature story in the Wall Street Journal (March 29, 2000), reported by Laurie P. Cohen. The military was sitting on a $1 billion stockpile of drugs and facing the daunting process of destroying and replacing its supply every 2 to 3 years, so it began a testing program to see if it could extend the life of its inventory. The testing, conducted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ultimately covered more than 100 drugs, prescription and over-the-counter. The results showed that about 90% of them were safe and effective as far as 15 years past their original expiration date.

In light of these results, a former director of the testing program, Francis Flaherty, said he concluded that expiration dates put on by manufacturers typically have no bearing on whether a drug is usable for longer. Mr. Flaherty noted that a drug maker is required to prove only that a drug is still good on whatever expiration date the company chooses to set. The expiration date doesn't mean, or even suggest, that the drug will stop being effective after that, nor that it will become harmful. "Manufacturers put expiration dates on for marketing, rather than scientific, reasons," said Mr. Flaherty, a pharmacist at the FDA until his retirement in 1999. "It's not profitable for them to have products on a shelf for 10 years. They want turnover."

The FDA cautioned there isn't enough evidence from the program, which is weighted toward drugs used during combat, to conclude most drugs in consumers' medicine cabinets are potent beyond the expiration date. Joel Davis, however, a former FDA expiration-date compliance chief, said that with a handful of exceptions -- notably nitroglycerin, insulin, and some liquid antibiotics -- most drugs are probably as durable as those the agency has tested for the military. "Most drugs degrade very slowly," he said. "In all likelihood, you can take a product you have at home and keep it for many years, especially if it's in the refrigerator." Consider aspirin. Bayer AG puts 2-year or 3-year dates on aspirin and says that it should be discarded after that. However, Chris Allen, a vice president at the Bayer unit that makes aspirin, said the dating is "pretty conservative"; when Bayer has tested 4-year-old aspirin, it remained 100% effective, he said. So why doesn't Bayer set a 4-year expiration date? Because the company often changes packaging, and it undertakes "continuous improvement programs," Mr. Allen said. Each change triggers a need for more expiration-date testing, and testing each time for a 4-year life would be impractical. Bayer has never tested aspirin beyond 4 years, Mr. Allen said. But Jens Carstensen has. Dr. Carstensen, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin's pharmacy school, who wrote what is considered the main text on drug stability, said, "I did a study of different aspirins, and after 5 years, Bayer was still excellent. Aspirin, if made correctly, is very stable.

Okay, I concede. My mother-in-law was right, once again. And I was wrong, once again, and with a wiseacre attitude to boot. Sorry mom. Now I think I'll take a swig of the 10-year dead package of Alka Seltzer in my medicine chest -- to ease the nausea I'm feeling from calculating how many billions of dollars the pharmaceutical industry bilks out of unknowing consumers every year who discard perfectly good drugs and buy new ones because they trust the industry's "expiration date labeling."

Thomas A. M. Kramer, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois


TOPICS: Chit/Chat; Health/Medicine
KEYWORDS:
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1 posted on 08/04/2012 5:49:13 AM PDT by JoeProBono
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To: JoeProBono

My doctor told me many years ago that nearly all drugs were equally potent five years past their expiration date. And then I asked him specifically about my wife’s medications and mine and he told me they were good “indefinitely.”


2 posted on 08/04/2012 5:55:15 AM PDT by old and tired
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To: JoeProBono

Antibiotics pretty much last forever. What type of biotic will make them deteriorate? Most MDs who also know their chemistry (most MDs) will pretty much confirm the same.


3 posted on 08/04/2012 5:55:28 AM PDT by Vigilanteman (Obama: Fake black man. Fake Messiah. Fake American. How many fakes can you fit in one Zer0?)
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To: JoeProBono

I serve on the board of a free clinic. We get mess donated to us by pharmacies that must discard meds about to pass their expiration date. We brought in docs who all said not to worry about the efficacy of meds past their expiration date. We used to raise funds to buy scrips for patients and now we suck up to pharmacies to have them donate their soon to be outdated meds because the govt requires them to do so.


4 posted on 08/04/2012 5:55:52 AM PDT by irish guard
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To: JoeProBono

I serve on the board of a free clinic. We get meds donated to us by pharmacies that must discard meds about to pass their expiration date. We brought in docs who all said not to worry about the efficacy of meds past their expiration date. We used to raise funds to buy scrips for patients and now we suck up to pharmacies to have them donate their soon to be outdated meds because the govt requires them to do so.


5 posted on 08/04/2012 5:56:24 AM PDT by irish guard
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To: irish guard

Nice that the docs haven’t been taken in by the marketing.


6 posted on 08/04/2012 6:00:33 AM PDT by 9YearLurker
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To: JoeProBono

Does the same rule apply to old make-up?


7 posted on 08/04/2012 6:07:11 AM PDT by stars & stripes forever (Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord!)
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To: stars & stripes forever

http://www.wikihow.com/Tell-when-to-Toss-Your-Old-Makeup


8 posted on 08/04/2012 6:12:20 AM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Mater tua caligas exercitus gerit ;-{)
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To: JoeProBono

The toilet bowl in that photo is so squeaky clean that it shames me into getting in our bathrooms and cleaning the toilet bowls - which still won’t look as nice as that one even after I scrub them (iron in the water keeps them messy looking unless I use “The Works” toilet bowl cleaner; and even then not for long.)


9 posted on 08/04/2012 6:15:25 AM PDT by Twinkie (Obama; fundamentally turning America into Sodom & Gomorrah one EO at a time.)
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To: JoeProBono

” If a bottle of Tylenol, for example, says something like “Do not use after June 1998,” and it is August 2002, should you take the Tylenol?”

No! But not because of ‘expiration dates’. Tylenol is hazardous to your liver. The three leading causes of livers being destroyed are Acetaminophen, poison mushroom, and exposure to some hydrocarbon solvents.


10 posted on 08/04/2012 6:16:59 AM PDT by GGpaX4DumpedTea (I am a Tea Party descendant...steeped in the Constitutional Republic given to us by the Founders.)
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To: Twinkie

I hear ya. High iron in our water, too. I’ve used straight bleach and it take hours to get rid of the stains.


11 posted on 08/04/2012 6:19:47 AM PDT by lysie
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To: JoeProBono; Kartographer

Good thread on “expired” drugs and clean toilets.


12 posted on 08/04/2012 6:26:08 AM PDT by outofsalt ("If History teaches us anything it's that history rarely teaches us anything")
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To: JoeProBono
I have ten year old Oxycontin. Every once in a while I self medicate(I know I shouldn't)The last time I did they worked as well as the first...at least least that was what I felt. If they had degraded I could not tell!!
13 posted on 08/04/2012 6:28:28 AM PDT by ontap
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To: old and tired
Once I hurt my back and was in excruicating pain. Doctor would only say OTC tylenol, which would not work. I had some pain pills 'left over' from when I gave birth. I took one at night and had some much needed relief. After my husband's knee replacement surgery, he kept his pills for the same reason.

I don't have a problem with keeping left over pain pills from a legitimate prescription for an emergency. I think it would be good for preppers to save any pain pills.

14 posted on 08/04/2012 6:31:43 AM PDT by sportutegrl
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To: stars & stripes forever

It’s been my experience with old make up(strictly from an observers point of view)that make up loses it’s potency when it ages and must be applied more vigorously....a trowel comes in handy!!!!!


15 posted on 08/04/2012 6:31:46 AM PDT by ontap
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To: GGpaX4DumpedTea
should you take the Tylenol?”

No! But not because of ‘expiration dates’. Tylenol is hazardous to your liver. The three leading causes of livers being destroyed are Acetaminophen, poison mushroom, and exposure to some hydrocarbon solvents.

Whatever. My current 24 tablet pack of Tylenol-analog is just over half used and expired in April 2009. I think my liver will handle the loading.

16 posted on 08/04/2012 6:32:55 AM PDT by Oztrich Boy (Literals will believe anything.)
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To: JoeProBono
DO MEDICATIONS REALLY EXPIRE? Try An Experiment With Your Mother-In-Law

I did and she's still alive. Please advise.

17 posted on 08/04/2012 6:39:43 AM PDT by TruthShallSetYouFree (I didn't write this by myself. Obama helped me. Everyone helped me.)
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To: outofsalt

>Good thread on “expired” drugs and clean toilets.

Not to mention old makeup;-{)


18 posted on 08/04/2012 6:44:12 AM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Mater tua caligas exercitus gerit ;-{)
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To: sportutegrl

I have read/heard that keeping such medicines in a freezer will also help preserve the potency.

I have some pain pills from 1998. I keep them for severe pain and sparingly take 2-4 ever couple of years. They still seem to work. From what I have read, they are no longer available in the US.


19 posted on 08/04/2012 6:50:15 AM PDT by TomGuy
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To: TruthShallSetYouFree

See post 10


20 posted on 08/04/2012 6:52:08 AM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Mater tua caligas exercitus gerit ;-{)
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To: Twinkie; lysie; JoeProBono

Go to the hardware store and get some muriatic (hydrochloric) acid. But ya got to be careful with it. A little goes a long ways. Do NOT use it on metal surfaces including the drain ring in your sink.

But for a skweeky clean toilet bowl in seconds, oh yeah.


21 posted on 08/04/2012 6:55:48 AM PDT by bigheadfred
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To: GGpaX4DumpedTea

The three leading causes of livers being destroyed are Acetaminophen, poison mushroom, and exposure to some hydrocarbon solvents....And 3 30 packs of Miller Lite a week.


22 posted on 08/04/2012 7:01:31 AM PDT by Safetgiver ( Islam makes barbarism look genteel.)
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To: bigheadfred

23 posted on 08/04/2012 7:01:47 AM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Mater tua caligas exercitus gerit ;-{)
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To: JoeProBono; zot; SeraphimApprentice; Interesting Times; Hurtgen; Alamo-Girl

Thanks for posting this joe.

Key paragraphs: One of the largest studies ever conducted that supports the above points about “expired drug” labeling was done by the US military 15 years ago, according to a feature story in the Wall Street Journal (March 29, 2000), reported by Laurie P. Cohen. The military was sitting on a $1 billion stockpile of drugs and facing the daunting process of destroying and replacing its supply every 2 to 3 years, so it began a testing program to see if it could extend the life of its inventory.

The testing, conducted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ultimately covered more than 100 drugs, prescription and over-the-counter. The results showed that about 90% of them were safe and effective as far as 15 years past their original expiration date.


24 posted on 08/04/2012 7:05:57 AM PDT by GreyFriar (Spearhead - 3rd Armored Division 75-78 & 83-87)
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To: JoeProBono

Plain, uncoated aspirin will eventually break down into acetic acid. If you open the bottle, and get a strong vinegar smell, they are not as good as fresh.


25 posted on 08/04/2012 7:06:37 AM PDT by blindsangamon
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To: JoeProBono

Drugs should definitely not be disposed of in the toilet. Introduces who knows what into the water supply and into the habitat of aquatic critters.


26 posted on 08/04/2012 7:06:43 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Pray for our republic.)
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To: JoeProBono

Exactly. But if you are afraid to use it, save it. With it, and a few more common items, stir up a batch of meth. Then you won’t care how long it takes to clean your toilet.


27 posted on 08/04/2012 7:07:29 AM PDT by bigheadfred
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To: JoeProBono

bookmark


28 posted on 08/04/2012 7:09:27 AM PDT by DFG ("Dumb, Dependent, and Democrat is no way to go through life" - Louie Gohmert (R-TX))
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To: sportutegrl

Tylenol does nothing for my pain, but aspirin works like a charm when these old joints are acting up.


29 posted on 08/04/2012 7:09:48 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Pray for our republic.)
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To: bigheadfred
Go to the hardware store and get some muriatic (hydrochloric) acid.

Something tells me that is a very dangerous suggestion on a thread about the effectiveness of medicine. I am sure it could eliminate a pain problem if taken in a sufficient dose.

30 posted on 08/04/2012 7:10:35 AM PDT by Never on my watch (I can see November from the Chick-Fil-A drive through lane.)
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To: blindsangamon

31 posted on 08/04/2012 7:10:59 AM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Mater tua caligas exercitus gerit ;-{)
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To: Twinkie

I have trouble with our toilets, too, because of iron. Stains the heck out of the shower curtain, too.


32 posted on 08/04/2012 7:11:16 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Pray for our republic.)
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To: blindsangamon

Plain, uncoated aspirin will eventually break down into acetic acid. If you open the bottle, and get a strong vinegar smell, they are not as good as fresh.

&&&
True. But they are not completely broken down, right? So they are not completely useless, right?


33 posted on 08/04/2012 7:15:17 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Pray for our republic.)
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To: Twinkie

The kind of water you have- mostly the mineral content has a lot to do with how clean your toilet looks after cleaning. We have a lot of minerals in our water so our bowl looks like it is in a bachelor pad unless I super clean it using pumice stone and a ton of elbow grease.


34 posted on 08/04/2012 7:18:41 AM PDT by Tammy8 (~Secure the border and deport all illegals- do it now! ~ Support our Troops!~)
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To: stars & stripes forever

“Does the same rule apply to old make-up?”

NO! Makeup does not stay nearly as clean as meds do. I worked with a woman who started having a problem with her eyelashes falling out. The doctor told her it was probably caused by using old mascara.


35 posted on 08/04/2012 7:20:30 AM PDT by jocon307
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To: Never on my watch

Think of it as preventive medicine. After you have spent hours on your hands and knees trying to scrub out those stains in the toilet, you are more likely to eat everything in the medicine cabinet (if you can get off the floor to reach it) that might help with the pain in your neck, arms, back, and knees, irregardless of their age or interaction(s).


36 posted on 08/04/2012 7:23:11 AM PDT by bigheadfred
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To: Bigg Red

I found out the same,30 years ago.

And Tylenol is poison to dogs,unlike aspirin.

I do not buy Tylenol.

Generic aspirin is always on hand though.


37 posted on 08/04/2012 7:23:58 AM PDT by hoosierham (Freedom isn't free)
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To: JoeProBono

Some show I watched about this years ago also said the worst place to keep your drugs was in the bathroom medicine cabinet (due to the high warm humidity). Also, my shampoo has an expiration date. Why would shampoo have an expiration date? I think they’ve gone overboard with them. It is a good way to get people to throw out the old stuff and head to the store to buy replacements.


38 posted on 08/04/2012 7:26:00 AM PDT by jeffc (Welcome to the United Socialist States of America)
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To: bigheadfred

I recomend muriatic acid as a bore cleaner for anyone likely
to compete with me in marksmanship.


39 posted on 08/04/2012 7:27:47 AM PDT by CrazyIvan (Obama's birth certificate was found stapled to Soros's receipt.)
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To: TruthShallSetYouFree
DO MEDICATIONS REALLY EXPIRE? Try An Experiment With Your Mother-In-Law

I did and she's still alive. Please advise.

LOL!!!!

40 posted on 08/04/2012 7:29:37 AM PDT by exit82 (Pass the word: Obama is a FAILURE!! Democrats are the enemies of freedom!)
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To: CrazyIvan

Shouldn’t you be concerned about all those ricochets?


41 posted on 08/04/2012 7:32:10 AM PDT by bigheadfred
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All our expired and post-dated drugs and pharmaceuticals get collected and resold. They end up in poorer 3rd world countries where it relieves their pain, cures their infections et al at much much lower prices.


42 posted on 08/04/2012 7:37:12 AM PDT by RBStealth
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To: JoeProBono

And even as important. If your dynamite is beginning to weep it has prolly exceeded its shelf life.


43 posted on 08/04/2012 7:38:29 AM PDT by bigheadfred
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To: Safetgiver

“And 3 30 packs of Miller Lite a week...”

Does that come under the category of ‘hydrocarbon solvents?’ :)

Alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver cannot occur unless there are unsaturated oils (corn oil, soy oil, canola oil, etc) in the diet. Replace these with coconut oil for health.


44 posted on 08/04/2012 7:39:05 AM PDT by GGpaX4DumpedTea (I am a Tea Party descendant...steeped in the Constitutional Republic given to us by the Founders.)
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To: Twinkie

I was noting the same thing. Although I am not quite moved to cleaning toilets, today.


45 posted on 08/04/2012 7:42:31 AM PDT by ican'tbelieveit (School is prison for children who have commited the crime of being born. (attr: St_Thomas_Aquinas))
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To: Safetgiver
3 30 packs of Miller Lite a week

Only 3? Lite weight.

46 posted on 08/04/2012 7:42:49 AM PDT by bigheadfred
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To: JoeProBono

Is it okay to test expired milk on M-I-Ls?


47 posted on 08/04/2012 7:45:28 AM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine!)
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To: Jack Hydrazine
Is it okay to test expired milk on M-I-Ls?

That is just crazy talk. You're going to risk making her even more sour????

48 posted on 08/04/2012 7:48:30 AM PDT by bigheadfred
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To: JoeProBono

Darn, I just can’t convince everyone that the eighteen year old single malt scotch is beyond its expiration date and they should not drink it!

On a separate note: There was an excellent article in the Sunbury PA Daily Item Newspaper yesterday about the level of pharmaceuticals in the Susquehanna River and other major streams and rivers. It was an absolutely excellent article that was factually researched. I went to their website to post it to FR and apparently they only put it in the hard copy of the newspaper. It’s a must read, especially since water treatment processes do not remove these drugs from the municipal systems.


49 posted on 08/04/2012 8:15:00 AM PDT by tired&retired
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To: TomGuy

I would question storing them in the freezer. Two things that CAN change chemistry over time are light and heat, so putting something in a dark refridgerator at a low constant temperature would eliminate those variables.

Putting it in the freezer would not be recommended however, because just as excessive heat can change chemistry, so can excessive cold. Freezer burn can happen to medicine just as it can happen to that nice steak or quart of ice cream. The moisture in your medicine will dessicate, which can cause chemical bonds to fail. Also, if your medicine is a liquid, freezing could cause the product to expand and break the bottle. Caplets can also be broken by freezing them.


50 posted on 08/04/2012 8:18:42 AM PDT by RainMan (I will vote for Romney, but dont ask me to donate time, or treasure unless he has a conservative VP.)
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