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For the past twenty years, ITM products have been marked with a lot number and exp. date.  The “exp. date”—using the terminology from other products, such as drugs—“expiration date,” helps to track the freshness of the product.   It is not a true expiration date, in that there is no reason to discard the bottle then.  In fact, ITM established its product dating as a “last day to ship from ITM.”  The products have been considered good to use for some time after that (in Bag of Pearls, it is mentioned that two years after the exp. date, the product is still usable).  The dating was determined with examination of product that was retained for a long time.   Six years after manufacture, upon opening a previously unopened bottle, the tablets retained the same appearance, fragrance, and taste as did new product, and the few studies available on degradation of herb ingredients seemed to support this time line.   In fact, the preferable approach would have been to use “best by” dates, but that is usually reserved for food and beverage products (including teas).   

As of May 2009, the factory producing and bottling our tablets has changed its procedure, getting rid of expiration dates (exp) and changing to manufacturing dates (mfg).   This is a tightening up of compliance with FDA rules which now indicate that expiration dates should only be used when there is a measurement of active ingredients that supports the specific dating.  This can be done with drug products, where degradation study of the individual ingredient is done.  However, there are no such studies available for complex herb products.

The mfg date (manufacturing date) is the date when the product was bottled up.   Since we consider that the products are good for six years after that, if you want to know how long one of these newly labeled products is considered “good,” you now have to add years to the stamped date.

This change will have an impact on how you track your inventory.  Proper inventory rotation involves placing newly obtained product behind older product, so that the older product is used up first.  To assure that the product rotation is working, you would check the date on the bottles.  Now, there will be a “jump” in the dates, a jump backwards, so you will have to look at whether the stamp says exp or mfg

Also, you need to alert your patients to this change, as they may think that you are giving them expired product.  With mfg dates, the date stamped will always be in the past!   This takes some getting used to.

So, beginning now, you will see some products dated “mfg 05/09,” and at first glance you may worry that this is outdated product, but, instead it is recently manufactured.  At ITM we attempt to make new batches of product every 6-12 months (some products more frequently, only a few of them less frequently), so that the items shipped from ITM have a long shelf life once you receive them.


—Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, ITM