c. Expiration Date. The length of time a pack may be considered sterile
depends on the type of packaging material used, whether or not dust covers are used,
the number of times a package is handled before use, and the conditions of storage.
This period is called shelf life. The expiration of this period must be marked on all items
after the sterilization process and after supplies are cool and safe to handle. A color-
coding system can be used by a facility in conjunction with expiration date. The
expiration date is determined as indicated in Table 3-6.
Table 3-6. Sample shelf life dates.
a. General. Sterile packages must be handled with care and stored in clean,
dry, dustproof, and vermin-proof areas. Shelving should be smooth and well spaced
with no projections or sharp corners that might damage the wrappers. Sterilized packs
should never be stacked in close contact with each other but rather their arrangement
should provide for air circulation on all sides of each package. While items processed
through CMS may be stored in open shelving or closed shelving, closed shelving is
preferred. Doors or lids should be closed except when removing or replacing items in
b. Sterile Storage. Sterilized items must:
Be thoroughly dry. Any dampness may contaminate the item.
Display visible evidence of having been sterilized.
(3) Have identifying data and expiration date recorded after sterilization, if
processed by CMS.
(4) Be placed in storage directly from carts on which they are delivered from
Be placed into a properly identified section of the storage cabinet.