Originally Posted by Herbalpagan
Pharmaceuticals have a definite shelf life. Ask your pharmacist next time your go in how long your pills are good for. (I believe most have a year shelf life).
Many first aid items (alcohol,iodine, first aid creams) have a very long shelf life (some practically forever), but that is unopened and stored in a cool dry location. (sorry, can't find the spell checker. lol)
Some pharmaceuticals become lethal with prolonged shelf life. Tetracycline can (rarely) cause Renal Tubular Acidosis (causing kidney shutdown).
The expiration date of pharmaceuticals specifies the date the manufacturer guarantees the full potency and safety of a drug. Most medications are potent and safe after the expiration date. A study conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration covered over 100 drugs, prescription and over-the-counter. The results showed that about 90% of them were safe and effective as far as 15 years past their expiration date. Joel Davis, a former FDA expiration-date compliance chief, said that with a handful of exceptions - notably nitroglycerin, insulin and some liquid antibiotics - most expired drugs are probably effective.
reference: Cohen, Laurie P. (2000-03-28), "Many Medicines Prove Potent for Years Past Their Expiration Dates.", Wall Street Journal 235 (62): A1 (cover story)
Here's the DoD Shelf Life Program Manual:
It covers such things as foods (consumables) and non-consumables (alcohol, etc)