Providing a check on expiry dates on drugs

Nigeria has witnessed increased cases of deaths through expired drugs. Many manufacturers and dealers with dead conscience re-label and revalidate dates of expired foods and drugs. Not long ago arrests of perpetrators and the confiscations of such re-labelled expired drugs were carried out by officials of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).   In June this year, the NCS and NAFDAC destroyed N100 million worth of expired drugs and other items at its Seme command. Expired goods worth N80 million were also destroyed in Abuja by NAFDAC. It was revealed that some of the products were voluntarily submitted by companies and individuals while others were seized through enforcement activities.


It is scary to note that while concerned agencies are making efforts to thwart activities of peddlers of expired products, some re-labelled expired food and drugs are still making their way into the markets without the agencies’ knowledge. So the big question is: how do consumers identify and recognize re-labelled or revalidated food and drugs? Expiry dates and best-before dates are dates which are interchangeably being used by manufacturers to convey a date when a product is at its peak performance or no longer fit to consume. Technically, there is a slight difference: expiry dates show the last day that is expected for a product to be used or consumed, while best-before date indicates that as from that date, the product’s freshness along with its quality is no longer guaranteed. Expiry date of a product is safety-based, while the best-before date is quality driven. Both are however important no matter which terminology or wording is used by the manufacturer’s label on the product.


A product’s expiry date or best-before date is usually determined by the shelf life of that product. The length of time varies depending on the type of product, how it is used and how it is stored’.


Personal care products, cosmetics, daily needs, foods, beverages, drugs, toiletries and other consumables and perishables all have varying shelf lives based on product content, raw material quality and sanitary conditions. Temperature, water and air are the main factors which determine the storage and shelf life of a product. For example, drugs are to be kept in a cool and dry place in order to take care of temperature and moisture exposure. Expiry date label on products only holds true for unopened or sealed products but when a sealed product has been opened the best-before date can no longer be relied on.

The need for expiry date label checks cannot be overemphasized as consumers are duty-bound to check product expiry dates of food and drugs before purchase and consumption. Foods, particularly poultry and meat, taken well past their expiry may trigger food poisoning and result in symptoms like fever, vomiting, cramping in stomach area, dehydration and diarrhoea. However, some expired products will pose no health problems if consumed; rather they degrade to a lower quality depending on the food type. 

All appropriate and concerned authorities waging war against fake, expired food and drugs are to create fast, easy and enabling environment, devise technological means for the general public to report any suspected act of expiration date re-labelling.  The investigation and enforcement unit and intelligence gathering and analysis division of NAFDAC should up their games through information gathering to outwit the antics of those who re-label expired product.

 Kayode Ojewale can be reached at:


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