Expiration date on nearly 1 million old Covid tests extended

US regulators have agreed to push back the use-by date on hundreds of thousands of expired rapid tests despite concerns they might return erroneous results

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has lengthened the shelf-life for around 800,000 expired coronavirus tests that have sat in a warehouse in Florida for months, giving state health officials more time to use them up.

The FDA allowed the extension after Abbott Diagnostics, the firm that produced the kits, penned a letter to regulators arguing that if the rapid tests were stored at room temperature, they would be stable for another three months, the Miami Herald reported on Tuesday.

While the test kits had already passed their use-by date last September, the FDA previously agreed to push back their shelf-life until the end of 2021, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie told reporters last week. Tuesday’s decision means the tests will be usable until sometime in March.

Guthrie explained that until the rise of the Omicron variant, the demand for rapid tests had plummeted across Florida, leaving hundreds of thousands of kits unused in warehouses. State officials were hesitant to donate any tests that had passed their expiration date because they were concerned they might provide erroneous results, a spokesperson for Governor Ron DeSantis told the Herald last week.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried – who has declared that she will challenge DeSantis in the gubernatorial race later this year – was critical of the state administration after the FDA’s decision, saying that “Floridians were waiting hours in lines to receive potentially lifesaving information while the state was sitting on expiring tests.”

“Now that we know their usage is going to be extended, my question for the governor is this: What is the plan to immediately get them out to the public?” she added.

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