Can Expired Iced Tea Make You Sick?

Can Expired Iced Tea Make You Sick

How do you like your iced tea? Most people would say they like it cold, fresh, and preferably not expired. I would say the same, except that I have learned that expired iced tea according to the label is not always really expired. Is it safe to consume iced tea if the expiration date printed on the bottle has passed? Will it make you feel sick if the iced tea is off and you drink it? How do you even know if it is off in the first place?

Can expired iced tea make you sick? No, expired iced tea will not make you sick if it is unopened, stored correctly (in a cool dark place) and the bottle is not damaged. Most sealed bottles of ice teas will remain at their best for 18 – 24 months and even longer than that. Expired iced tea can potentially make you sick if it has a strange smell, color, or taste.

It appears that iced tea can indeed be enjoyed well after the expiration date. The key to extending its lifespan seems to store it properly. If you are anything like me, you always have a steady supply of ice tea coming into the house. Many people just can’t seem to get enough of it, but that does not mean that there is never any surplus. I have had several occasions where I have stumbled across an old bottle of iced tea that I have forgotten about and then noticed that it is well past is the expiration date. And then the grappling over whether to throw it away or drink it begins. Just how seriously should we be taking the expiration date on our bottles of iced tea? I wanted to know – so I set about to find out.

If you want to know more about your expired iced tea’s ability to make you sick or not, take the time to read through the interesting titbits below.

The Debunked Mystery of Iced Tea Expiration Dates

You might be wondering why there is an expiration date printed on iced tea if it does not really tell you when the product expires. Many consumers want to know the very same thing. Should the expiration date be valued at all? And if so, why?

Most people assume that the expiration date on their iced tea is a warning that when that particular mentioned date comes, the iced tea will no longer be safe to drink. That is just not true. Commercially packaged iced teas all carry an expiration date. In some areas, it is also called a “best before” or a “best by” date, but it is all really the same. One thing to note is that this is not the “no longer safe” date.

While the expiration date does not signal the end for your iced tea, it is still an important date for consumers looking for the best type of enjoyment from the products that they buy. This is the date that is estimated for the product to still be at its best. After that date has passed, the manufacturer assumes that the quality of the product will no longer be at its best.

Many people assume that they need to throw the product away if the expiration date has been reached or passed. The good news is that you can keep your iced tea stored in a dark, cool space for 18 to 24 months in most instances – sometimes even a year longer than that. You see, the product does not expire by the expiration date, so you do not need to worry if you have found an unopened iced tea bottle in the cupboard – it should be completely safe to drink.

Manufacturers print the expiration date on the product as a courtesy to let consumers know when to use the product if they want the best quality from it – it is as simple as that.

What Does “Stored Correctly” Mean?

Above, it was mentioned that expired iced tea will not make you sick if it is unopened, has not turned bad, and has been stored correctly. You might be wondering, “But what does that mean”?  Of course, you understand the “unopened” part, but how do you know if your cupboard has been providing the ideal storage setting for an aging bottle of iced tea? And what exactly are the storage requirements for bottled iced tea?

When the bottle of iced tea is still sealed, it does not need to be stored in the refrigerator. When iced tea is opened, it must be refrigerated at 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit and you need to drink it within a week to 10 days.  Most labels will advise you to store the product in a cool dark place when it is not going to be used immediately. This means that your iced tea should not be exposed to direct sunlight where it can get warm and potentially start to deteriorate. A room temperature of between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit is fine for storing iced tea if the bottle is sealed. If your bottle of iced tea has been stored in these conditions and it is past its expiration date, chances are that the tea will be 100% fine and will not make you sick if you drink it.

Is My Expired Iced Tea Bad?

Okay, so we have established that more often than not, it is completely fine to drink iced tea when it is past its sell-by date. Sometimes there are instances where the stored iced tea may have actually turned bad and then it is not a good idea to drink it. This can sometimes even happen before the expiration date. Below are a few telltale signs that your iced tea has gone bad and will potentially make you sick:

  • The iced tea looks strange – there is a change in color.

If the bottle is not correctly sealed, or it is damaged, the iced tea may even start to grow mold. In most instances, a quick glance at the bottle can tell you if the iced tea has changed or not. Healthy iced tea is usually reddish-brown in color and looks fairly bright. Iced tea that has gone bad may look dull and slightly darker than normal.

  • The iced tea has a weird smell – there is a change in odor.

When iced tea turns bad, it tends to have a strange odor that is very similar to wine. This is because the tea and all the other ingredients are fermenting. If you open the bottle and it just does not smell right, it has probably turned bad.

  • The iced tea tastes bad – there is a change in flavor.

If you are an iced tea lover, you will know precisely what it tastes like. If it does not taste like iced tea to you, it has probably gone bad and you should not drink it. Most people who have had the misfortune of tasting iced tea that is off is that it tastes slightly fermented or bitter.

What Happens if You Drink Off Iced Tea

Sometimes tea is off when the expiration date comes around and then you should not drink it as it will make you sick. Iced tea that goes bad usually contains bacteria which can cause a variety of health problems. Expired iced tea that is off can affect you in the following ways:

  • Upset stomach,
  • Nausea and vomiting,
  • Diarrhea.

If you think that the tea is off, avoid drinking it.


As you can see, if your expired iced tea has been correctly stored in a cool dark place and it does not seem to have changed color or smell weird, it will not make you sick if you drink it. Most iced tea products can last many months, even years after the recommended sell-by date or expiration date if you have stored it properly. All there is to do is haul out that old bottle of iced tea, pop it in the fridge and let it get cold enough for you to sip on and enjoy.


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