Sterilization pouches and expiry dates
Are there expiry dates/shelf life on sterilization pouches?
Unless indicated by the manufacturer, there are no expiry dates on pouches.
A lot number and the date of manufacture are printed on the boxes.
The date of manufacture is in the form of year month day.
- example 180410.
Expiry dates are typically linked to a food or chemical registered with Health Canada.
What if there's no expiration date on sterilization pouches?
If the pouch has been processed, the integrity has not been compromised and the manufacturer does not have an expiration date on the box or in the manufacturer's instructions, then sterility is fully maintained.
Some offices follow their own policy of one year from the date of processing, but that is up to the individual office.
If the integrity of the packaging has been compromised such as being ripped or wet, or the manufacturer includes an expiry date that has passed, the items must be reprocessed as they are no longer considered sterile.
The following is from the PIDAC document Infection Prevention and Control for Clinical Office Practice April 2015 page 56:
"For items reprocessed in the clinical office, if the integrity of the package has been maintained, the item remains sterile. A plastic dust jacket may greatly extend the shelf life of the package and should be used on muslin or crepe wrapped packs. If a sterile tray/package has been purchased and has an expiry date/label, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and discard when outdated."
The following is from Public Health Ontario- Best Practices for Cleaning, Disinfection and Sterilization in All Health Care Settings 3rd edition May 2013 page 52-3:
"The shelf life of a sterile package is event-related rather than time-related. Event-related shelf life is based on the concept that items that have been properly decontaminated, wrapped, sterilized, stored and handled will remain sterile indefinitely, unless the integrity of the package is compromised (i.e., open, wet, dirty). If the integrity of the package is compromised, the item can no longer be considered to be sterile and it must be reprocessed again before use."
Maintaining sterility also includes the rotation of stock, where the oldest stock is used first.