Feeding baby expired formula

Can you use expired baby formula?

As parents throughout the U.S. try to find nutrition solutions amid the nation’s baby formula shortage, some seem to be wondering if it’s OK to serve expired baby formula.

The question has spiked nine times in the last year, according to online search data on Google Trends. Sunday, May 1, appears to be the last time Americans searched the term: "Can you use expired baby formula?" 


A Target store in Long Island, New York, has a sign stating that certain baby formula brands will have ‘sporadic’ inventory due to an FDA recall. Formula shelves appear to be low on stock as a result. Photo taken by Nicole Pelletiere. (Fox News Digital)

Health experts have addressed this question in the past before the baby formula shortage captured national attention. The short answer is no, parents shouldn’t feed expired formula to babies, even when there’s inadequate supply.

What risks are associated with expired baby formula?

"Do not feed your baby formula that has expired," said Dr. Alexa Mieses Malchuk, a family physician at UNC Health – a not-for-profit medical system in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

"Formula is not crafted to last forever. Nutrients can degrade and bacteria can grow over time," Malchuk continued. "This can be harmful to infants and children."

Health experts unanimously agree that expired baby formula should be avoided. (iStock)

In an email, Malchuk told Fox News Digital that parents should avoid using expired liquid and powdered formulas.


"Expired formula lacks proper nutrients and puts children at risk for mold ingestion," said Iza Correll, a pediatric health and wellness specialist who founded OVI Healthcare – a Kentucky-based nonprofit hospital that operates in Kenya.

Health agencies warn against expired formula

The U. S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration agree that parents should stay away from expired baby formula.

"Do not buy or use infant formula after its use-by date," the USDA addressed in a FAQ webpage. 

The agency noted that the FDA requires manufacturers to print use-by dates on formula containers, but printing on baby foods isn't required.

"If the manufacturer has put a date on the baby food, however, use it before the date expires," the USDA wrote.


Baby formula manufacturers are required to print expiration dates, according to the FDA.  (iStock)

The FDA says use-by dates are meant to "inform retailers and consumers about the quality of the infant formula," and are determined by each formula manufacturer's internal testing and nutrition data.

"Until that declared date, the infant formula will contain no less than the amount of each nutrient declared on the product label and will otherwise be of acceptable quality," the FDA wrote, citing guidelines from its Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling and Dietary Supplements.

How should baby formula be stored?

An Infant Formula Preparation and Storage guide published by the CDC notes that unopened baby formula containers should be stored indoors in a "cool" and "dry" setting. Vehicles, garages and outdoor settings are not advised.

When opened, the CDC says baby formula containers need to have a "tightly closed" lid and should be stored in a "cool, dry place," but the containers shouldn’t be put in a refrigerator. 


"Most infant formulas need to be used within 1 month of opening the container," the CDC wrote. "When you first open the container, write the date on the lid to help you remember."

Unprepared baby formula should be stored in a ‘cool, dry place.’ Health experts recommend consulting each formula's packaging for storage, prep and disposal information. (iStock)

The FDA, on the other hand, says baby formula purchasers should consult the label manufacturers put on each formula container to determine "handling before and after the container is opened.

These labels are also required to state how prepared formulas should be prepared and disposed of, according to the FDA’s Infant Formula: Safety Do's and Don'ts webpage.

Can you donate baby formula?

Some food banks and shelters accept baby formula donations, but government agencies like the USDA and CDC advise against accepting donations from unknown sources out of an abundance of caution.

The reason is improperly stored formulas could potentially cause more harm than good.

"Unused, returned infant formula may have been inappropriately stored (e.g., exposed to extremely high temperatures), may be past its use-by-date, or subjected to tampering (e.g., labels or use-by dates changed)," the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service wrote in a WIC Policy Memorandum. "Some of these conditions can cause products to lose nutrients, impact the product’s safety, and potentially threaten the health of recipients."


Some food banks and shelters accept baby formula donations, but government agencies recommend against it due to storage, tampering and expiration risks. Donor discretion advised. (iStock)

These complex lists of risks are a big reason why the USDA FNS advises clinics that work with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program to not donate "unused" or "returned" baby formulas to "food banks or food pantries."

Instead, the USDA FNS says WIC clinics should dispose of these formulas "in accordance with state and local health and safety laws."

Similarly, the CDC advises against baby formula, breast milk substitutes and breast pump donations during states of emergency.

Baby formulas need to be stored at right temperatures and within their ‘use-by’ date to ensure nutrients aren't degraded. (iStock)


"Relief organizations should only provide ready-to-use infant formula to infants who are already formula feeding or have had breastfeeding interrupted in certain situations," the CDC wrote in its Disaster Planning: Infant and Child Feeding guideline.

Cortney Moore is an associate lifestyle writer on the Lifestyle team at Fox News Digital.

Does Baby Formula Expire? (Including Unopened Can)

Many parents wonder does baby formula expire or how long does baby formula last? It’s a fair question considering the price of the formula and the fact that a baby might have a preference or suddenly require certain dietary needs.

There are some differences in terms of expire date of baby formula depending on whether it’s been opened, the seal on the can is unopened or you still want to put some ready-to-go bottle in the fridge.

Does Baby Formula Expire?

Yes, sadly baby formula does expire.

Unopened Baby Formula Cans:

If you suddenly find an unopened can of baby formula if you look at bottom of your baby formula canister you’ll find a use-by or expiration date to indicate its unopened shelf life. This is usually about a year after the manufacture date.

Freezing and refrigeration of the powder is not recommended, as it can introduce moisture and cause changes to the formula’s composition (this also applies to opened cans!).

Opened Baby Powder Cans Expiry Date:

What is the baby formula expiration date after opening? If you or someone else already opened a can of formula you only have 30 days after opening before it expires.

Make sure to store the formula following the standard storage procedure of keeping it somewhere indoors in a dry, cool place. The expiry date of opened cans of baby formula are less to do with the loss and breakdown of nutrition, but more to do with the risk of bacteria.

Premixed Baby Formula:

Many parents like to mix up baby formula ahead of time and use a bottle warmer to make life easier, but it’s generally not recommended with baby formula. It’s easier and safer to get a water warmer.

If you pre-mixed your formula and put it in the fridge it has to be consumed within 24 hours safely, but you should cover the bottle with a cap. This does not apply to bottles left in room temperature.

Your baby’s bottle is good for 1 hour after you have given it to them. Do NOT store your formula after your baby already tasted some because baby’s mouth already introduced some bacteria into the formula liquid and making it spoil quicker.

How Does Expired Formula Look Like?

Common signs of expired powdered infant formula include clumping, discoloration or foul smell. If something doesn’t smell right, or you can see clumps or formula don’t risk it.

Expiry date and methods mentioned above don’t apply to toddler powder milk – for example, this one. Shelf life of powdered milk is much longer than baby formula.

Most manufacturers recommend using powdered milk (also known as dried milk) within 18 months to keep things safe, but in reality according to the USDA, powdered milk can be stored indefinitely up to around 2-10 years.

Can You Use Expired Baby Formula?

The expired baby formula might still mix well and look like it’s fine to use, but it will no longer have all the nutrients your baby needed for them to grow. It’s basically a useless liquid at this point and might cause some serious health issues or delays to your baby.

Before you throw away your old cans, there are certain things you can do with expired baby formula – as long it’s not mixed with water yet!

Animal shelters will gladly accept expired cans of baby formula for puppies and kittens.

Another use of the expired formula is using it in your garden. The nutrients inside baby food can serve as compost to help your garden flourish, and is considered a sort of pseudo-fertilizer that’s organic.

What are some expired formula side effects?

If you accidentally gave your baby some expired formula (it can happen, some stores might not remove it from their shelves by mistake), don’t stress too much. While certainly not ideal, it’s very unlikely that feeding an infant out-of-date formula will result in any illness (according to Enfamil formula makers).

Think about it when you eat something rotten – you don’t always get sick. While you should surely avoid feeding the baby expired formula, it doesn’t always mean they get sick. Don’t panic, but if your baby starts having diarrhea or vomiting call your doctor!

Shelf life of the mixture. How long can dry and ready mix be stored.

05/20/2021 Reading time: 3.5 min