Expired supplements. Toss them, or use them?

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This matter has come up twice in the last week, as #1 told me that whatever supplement I'd given her was now expired, and as I searched through the spice/vitamin cupboard looking for thyme, I noticed that many of my supplements have expired.

Is it hazardous to the health to take expired supplements? Is the benefit lost? Does the benefit remain, [much like some products purchased that have dates set that have NOTHING to do with quality of the product?]

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), January 03, 2002


Anita, I doubt that there's any hazard involved. The water-soluble vitamins have a limited shelf life, but they wouldn't be at 0 on their expiry date. If you really want the bottom line, ask the supplier.

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), January 03, 2002.

I'm sure the standard disclaimer applies: "it depends."

How FAR expired? Did they sit many summers on a top cabinet shelf in a non-air-conditioned Texas dwelling?

1. You could call your supplier and tell them what you have, and what they advise in each case. (And then they will say, "Hell no! Don't take them, order new ones! We have a special this week...")

2. You could do what I do. If it smells bad, turned a different color, is melted or congealed, throw it out. (Well, you probably did that...) Otherwise, use it, knowing it might not be quite as potent.

Actually, I had a helpful supplier who once advised me on different ones - whether to keep or throw out. It pretty much correlated to the sniff and inspect test.

-- Debbie (dbspence@pobox.com), January 03, 2002.

What about vitamin E? It's oily. Does it get rancid?

-- helen (prepped@for.nutritional.disasters), January 03, 2002.


Rancid fats are so damaging to the body that we have evolved a special revulsion for the taste. So, your best test would be to open one of them and bite it to see if there was a bad taste. If not, they are OK.

At least, the vitamin E acts as an antioxidant for the accompanying oil, so the oil is less likely to have gone rancid than if there were no E in it (but not impossible).

-- Debbie (dbspence@pobox.com), January 04, 2002.

Thanks for the advice. My guess is that many expired on October, 2001. I wouldn't have this problem if I took them more reliably, rather than sporadically. I simply hate to automagically replace them if there's still some benefit. These things aren't cheap.

-- Anita (AnitaS3@hotmail.com), January 04, 2002.

Debbie, back when we were prepping like it was 1999, I think I read something about how fats can go rancid without much of a taste change. I think it was vegetable oils in particular. I don't remember where I read it, but I thought it was on a university nutrition site. (I'm really not kidding about forgetting all the time. Pretty sure it's worse, but how can I tell if I forget how often I forget?)

-- helen (dance@card.with.overflow.buffers), January 04, 2002.

You have a point, Helen. I'm not quite sure when it comes to *refined* vegetable oils.

When unrefined vegetable oils go bad, they DO definitely smell bad. The rancid smell comes from the decaying biological matter in the oil.

A *refined* vegetable oil would likely not smell even if old, since it doesn't have much left in it TO go bad. The enzymes and things that would make the oil degrade were already neutralized or destroyed by high-temp processing and solvent extraction... purposely. Purpose being you guessed it... a long shelf life life.

Shelf life means it looks pretty and will smell OK when opened, so people will buy it, it says nothing about nutritional value. All polyunsaturated (liquid even in the fridge) vegetable oils, refined or unrefined, are unstable, meaning increased free radical activity when they sit or are cooked with. You have to be really careful with them. This is probably what you were reading about.

Come to think of it, I HAVE smelled refined oils when old (2 years - GAG!) and they smell musty, but not rancid.

What kind of fats are you storing?

-- Debbie (dbspence@pobox.com), January 05, 2002.

Mainly polyunsaturated fats. Around the middle of my gut mostly. I'm working on it though.

-- Jack Booted Thug (governmentconspiracy@NWO.com), January 05, 2002.

JBT: Those fats are not polyunsaturated.

-- Peter Errington (petere7@starpower.net), January 05, 2002.

Debbie, I'm not storing any fats. We use olive oil, bought in small amounts. We have a can of lard that we want to make soap with to show the kids how. Well, and a can of evil shortening, for making cookies. We go through a lot of that. :)

JBT, your kind of fat is the best kind.

-- helen (ready@for.hibernation), January 05, 2002.

This reminds me of another question of which I'm unclear on the answer. I have a small appliance called a "Fry Daddy". It's used to deep-fry foods. I've got to believe that in years past folks didn't just deep-fry ONE meal and throw out all the fat. [It takes damn near an entire can of Crisco to get the thing up to the level where it can deep-fry ANYTHING.] So, after I fried up some chicken a month or two ago [which never cooked through before burning the gooey breading...nothing new in MY cooking experiences], I left the Crisco to congeal again in the fryer. It has a lid, so outside of the "taint" the Chicken introduced, could this stuff be good enough to use again?

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), January 05, 2002.

I remember my mother refrigerating any oil which was used to fry chicken or fish. And she had them labeled as well.

I would think anything other than meat oil would be okay to leave out, but will go rancid eventually.

-- Catheine (Catherine__Linton@hotmail.com), January 05, 2002.

You got it almost right, Anita. It is thriftier to save the fat or oil you used for deep frying and reuse it. But I am pretty sure the SOP is to strain it to get bits of food out of it, put it into a tightly sealed container and refrigerate it until the next use.

Since I am not much into deep frying (about the only thing I ever took a liking to was tempura) I can't tell you how often you can reuse it or how long you can store it before it is no good.

-- Little Nipper (canis@minor.net), January 05, 2002.

Anita, since Z isn't here to correct me or back me up, take it or leave it: throw out the grease you used on the chicken.

If you use the fryer again, use all new grease. When you're finished, strain the grease by putting a coffee filter into a strainer. The grease doesn't have to be any hotter than it takes to make it liquid. (Don't do this nekkid, though, just don't.)

Raw potato is sometimes used to "clarify grease", although I can't remember if you're supposed to fry the potato or just let it soak in there for a while.

After you've strained your grease into a clean container, refrigerate it.

-- helpful helen (at@loose.ends.without.Z), January 05, 2002.

Sorry Peter. It was the first kind of fat I could think of to answer Debbie's question about which kind of fat I was storing.

Are you telling me that I am actually saturated with fat?

-- Jack Booted Thug (governmentconspiracy@NWO.com), January 05, 2002.

JBT: Unless you're a plant.

-- Peter Errington (petere7@starpower.net), January 05, 2002.


Helen, I misread you to be saying you'd stored some oils for Y2k and that's how come you were wondering about this. Olive oil is my oil of choice too. Also coconut oil and ghee. Anyway I hope the information was of some clinical interest. It should stand at least until Z shows up and rips into it.

Anita, helen was a lot more helpful to you than I would have been. I would have gone into lecture mode. Nag nag nag, don't deep fry, nag nag nag. Looks like you got some good advice. (I never could get the hang of it anyway.)

The saturated vs. polyunsaturated thing is another one of those false dichotomies.

-- Debbie (dbspence@pobox.com), January 05, 2002.

Debbie, I tried to deep fry doughnuts three times in our little fry daddy thingy. The result could have been used for organic tires on a garden cart. You couldn't bite a piece out of them. They felt like rubber and couldn't be pulled apart. They were squeezable, but not tearable. I wish I had saved the recipe. We don't fry anything now.

The nutritionist our whole family was sent to a few years ago said to think about margarine in a frying pan -- it never melts completely. She said our body temps aren't high enough to melt it either. I thought this was a neat way to get the point across about certain types of fat.

-- helen (cholesterol@is.delicious), January 06, 2002.

Ok you know that margarine is bad news then. Good. I was just checking up on you. :-)

Since our brain cells are made mainly of fat, it is important that we eat the right fats.

I'm sure there's another joke in here somewhere ...

-- Debbie (dbspence@pobox.com), January 06, 2002.

Debbie: Just for the record, that was the first time in my life that I ever tried to deep-fry anything other than Yuttebuckles [a Norwegian Christmas cookie/donut-type thing.] It was part of my "branching out" cooking experiences. It was a total failure.

Back to the topic at hand, however, I KNOW that my family didn't use the lard in which they baked Yuttebuckles ONCE. They're much too frugal for that. I also know that refrigeration was once pretty much unheard of, so what the hell did THEY do with this stuff? Yeah...I'll toss it, but it sure seems like a waste, and I've gotta believe there are people out there who use it over and over somehow.

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), January 06, 2002.

Anita, if your relatives were in Norway, all they had to do was leave it in an unheated room.

-- helen (i@know.this.one), January 06, 2002.

I am sorry for the confusion that I (argh!) so often introduce into conversations.

Anita, it does seem like a waste to throw it all out. LN says to keep the fat in the fridge for re-use. Helen cautions you to throw it out just because it's had the chicken in it too long. But is there any reason for Anita not to re-heat it and strain the chicken out NOW, and be back to square one? (As long as it had been kept in the fridge)

Thing is, I wouldn't recommend the Crisco anyway, but that's where MY sneaky agenda comes in... :) My whole beef is with the refined vegetable oils, errr, that didn't come out right. :)

Maybe helen, you and others who lived the country life, knew the difference between refined vegetable oils and unrefined, but I didn't, and probably a lot of Americans don't. I had to unlearn all this crap about supermarket oils being "heart-healthy" - when actually the trans-fats and the overbalance of omega6's in them are really implicated in a lot of disease that gets blamed on animal fats. Not to mention all the "partially hydrogenated" vegetable oils that show up in every manner of packaged bakery product. (But this is big business so we don't want to look at that.)

I'm somewhat wary of heating animal fats so I cook meat at low temps. But people have deep fried at home for centuries and no heart disease epidemic showed up until mid 20th century. I am MUCH more wary of heating refined polyunsaturate oils that smell much better than they should. :) Now in the healthfood store you can get unrefined vegetable oils that actually ARE heart-healthy, you'll pay a lot more of course.

This thread expires: 1/07/2002 (if it hasn't already) :)

-- Debbie (dbspence@pobox.com), January 06, 2002.

Debbie, you ask a good question about whether, if (!) Anita had refrigerated the oil in the fryer since using it, she shouldn't just heat it, strain it, and use it again.

Here is how I would look at it. The reason for the straining is to remove as much as possible the bits of food suspended in the oil. That food, like any other, can grow bacteria - even in a refrigerator. Just think about when you once discovered something in your refrigerator that looked like a petri dish full of unmentionable hairy blue or orange gunk. Those organisms grew under refrigeration. OTOH, "pure" oil kept in a refrigerator doesn't tend to grow hairy blue or orange stuff.

Even if heating the oil to deep-fry temperatures killed any organisms that might have grown there, it may not destroy the byproducts of the little buggers' metabolism - their sh*t, so to speak. Those can be toxic.

Balance this against the desire to save - what? - three bucks worth of oil or fat. I figure it is much better to start fresh and do it right from the beginning than to risk poisoning for the sake of three bucks.

-- Little Nipper (canis@minor.net), January 06, 2002.

I'm with LN on the 'save the fat' thing. I know my mom used to re-use her oil, and not store it in the refridgerator, but I think she did strain it. Given the nastiness of bacteria these days, I'd keep it in the fridge, too.

Debbie, I know what you're talking about re: the good for you vs bad for you fat issue. I've had *much* less pain (arthritis) since I've started taking a fish oil supplement. And the research now shows that butter and other saturated fats are less harmful to the body than hydrogenated, unsaturated fats are, so I eat butter, too ;-) Better yet to eat bread the (southern) European way - with olive oil, but I need to retrain my taste buds first.

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), January 06, 2002.

I don't know enough about this topic, about reusing cooking fats, to make any definite comments. I will raise this question, though: In addition to heart disease and multiplying microbes, don't we have to worry about cancer?

-- Peter Errington (petere7@starpower.net), January 07, 2002.

LN and Tricia:

Agreed, I'd do the same, for the same reasons. It was all an "in theory" on my part anyway, since I don't have this experience.

Somehow I missed or didn't think about it that Anita said: (1) the container had been sitting for at least a month, and (2) the meat was not cooked through. (a good lesson in reading comprehension, hmmm)

Tricia: That is good to hear! (about your arthritis) Never heard of anyone's arthritis getting better, except very short term. with immune-suppressing drugs.

-- Debbie (dbspence@pobox.com), January 07, 2002.


"Don't we have to worry about cancer?"

I would not look to any traditional food preparation method, as a reason for cancer. That includes deep frying, if done in traditional ways and with traditional ingredients.* (Restaurant deep frying is a whole other story.) Instead look to the "great 20th Century Experimental Diet". This is IMO an overlooked variable in nearly all studies of food and disease - as it is in so many ways an anomaly from what humans are biologically adapted to eat.

* conditionally taking back my 'lecture mode'

-- Debbie (dbspence@pobox.com), January 10, 2002.

A bit of snooping around the web turned up the recommendation that we deep fry in either peanut oil or extra-virgin olive oil, as (purportedly) these oils tend not to acquire the flavor of the food fried in them, making their reuse more palateable.

-- Little Nipper (canis@minor.net), January 10, 2002.

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