If you notice you're drinking an expired bottled tea or find some tea bags in the back of your cupboard, you might wonder if it's safe. Lipton Green Tea has a "best if used by" date, and the manufacturer of the tea suggests you drink it before that date for quality — not safety — purposes.
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While Lipton Green Tea doesn't have an "expiration" date, it does come with a "best if used by" date for optimal freshness. Drinking tea past this date isn't typically dangerous, but you could miss out on some of the health benefits of green tea.
Read more: Health Benefits of Green Tea
Understand the Label
According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS), the "best if used by" date on beverages such as tea is an indicator of quality and freshness. These dates address possible loss of quality, rather than spoilage.
For clarity, an expiration date on food, which is also known as sell-by date, is meant for store owners and indicates when the food should come off the shelves. You shouldn't buy foods past their sell-by or expiration date, according to the USDA FSIS.
In most cases, it's safe to consume foods after the "best if used by" date, according to the USDA FSIS. However, if your green tea smells or tastes off, dispose of it.
Also, to ensure safety, green tea should be brewed to the right temperature — 160 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit, according to an article published in the April-June 2012 issue of the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology — to kill off any bacteria. And if you're using your green tea to make iced tea, keep it in a clean urn and refrigerated.
Keep It Fresh
Consuming your Lipton green tea after the expiration date may be more of a potency, or quality, issue than safety. Green tea is rich in phytochemcials that offer health benefits, such as improvement in heart health and reduced risk of certain types of cancer.
According to Tufts University, dried tea leaves will maintain their phytochemical content for up to two years when stored properly. Tea should be stored in an airtight container, away from heat, water and light.
Lipton advises consumers that most of its teas can be safely consumed for up to 18 months after the production date and specifies that bottled teas have a date listed on the cap for convenience.
Read more: The Best Green Tea to Lose Weight
Recognize Health Benefits and Concerns
You might enjoy the flavor of green tea, but drinking a fresh cup offers a number of health benefits. For your heart, green tea may help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the build-up of plaque on your artery walls. As for cancer, the tea may reduce your risk of developing bladder, pancreatic or skin cancer.
Green tea also aids in blood sugar control and helps to prevent sudden rises in blood sugar levels, according to the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology article.
However, green tea is a source of caffeine and may affect your sleep or cause you to feel nervous or anxious. If you have a history of anxiety, kidney disease, liver problems or stomach ulcers, you should consult your doctor before buying a box of Lipton Green Tea.
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Food Product Dating"
- Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology: "Green Tea: A Boon for Periodontal and General Health"
- Tufts University: "How Long Can You Store Tea Before It Starts to Lose Its Taste and Nutritional Benefits?"
- Lipton: "FAQ: How Long Can I Keep Lipton Teas?"