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Yes, at-home COVID test kits expire. What to know


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In this stock photo, a worker hands out boxes of at-home Covid-19 test kits to people who waited in a long line that snakes multiple times around the Shaw Library in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021.

AP

Yes, there are expiration dates for at-home COVID-19 tests, and you should check if an unopened one has been sitting on your shelf for some time.

But while the FDA says you shouldn’t use an expired at-home test, you might still want to keep any you may have as the coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S.

Here’s why.

There’s an increased risk of inaccurate COVID-19 test results — meaning a false positive or negative — when using an expired test kit, the FDA says. For this reason, they shouldn’t be used.

“COVID-19 tests and the parts they are made of may degrade, or break down, over time,” according to the agency, which recently updated its FAQ page on at-home tests.

However, the FDA acknowledges that test kit expiration dates can get extended as manufacturers gather data to determine how long a test is actually reliable.

With “real-time stability testing,” a manufacturer will store tests longer than their listed shelf life and then analyze their “ability to perform accurately,” according to the agency.

That means there’s a possibility that an at-home COVID-19 test’s expiration date listed on the box is not accurate and has been extended — meaning the “expired” test could indeed still be usable.

“Since it takes time for test manufacturers to perform stability testing, the FDA typically authorizes at-home COVID-19 tests with a shelf-life of about four to six months from the day the test was manufactured, based on initial study results, and it may be extended later as additional data is collected,” the FDA says.

Before you throw out your expired test, check for updated expiration dates for FDA-authorized test kits as listed by the agency here. You can look for your particular test by using the available search bar.

Additionally, a test manufacturer may notify customers about updated test expiration dates after a request for a longer shelf-life was authorized by the FDA.

The FDA in January extended expiration dates for roughly 1 million unused, at-home Abbott BinaxNow COVID-19 tests stored in a Florida warehouse after they were considered expired in December, ABC reported. As a result, the tests — then considered expired after March — were distributed for use.

The FDA notes when a test’s shelf life has been extended under the “expiration date” column on its list of at-home tests.

“If the Expiration Date column does not say the shelf-life is extended, that means the expiration date on the box label of your test is still correct,” according to the agency.

Julia Marnin is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter covering the southeast and northeast while based in New York. She’s an alumna of The College of New Jersey and joined McClatchy in 2021. Previously, she’s written for Newsweek, Modern Luxury, Gannett and more.





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