What is the shelf life of canned food?


From protein-packed tuna to flavorful tomatoes, canned foods are convenient, versatile, and inexpensive, making them an essential part of every well-stocked pantry. , can be as nutritious as fresh or frozen foods.


The biggest feature of canned food is its long shelf life. This allows you to stash ingredients for emergencies or last minute meals. But how long is “long,” exactly? Here, food safety experts explain canned food’s shelf life and how best to store it to prevent spoilage.




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What Canned Dates Mean

When it comes to the shelf life of canned foods, it helps to understand what a dated label means (or doesn’t mean). Otherwise, you may unnecessarily throw away canned food that is actually safe to eat. “Store-bought canned food may have a variety of dates and numbers, including the date the product was manufactured, manufacturing facility information and lot codes, and ‘use by’ or ‘sell by’ dates,” he said. Mitzi Baum explains. , M.Sc., Food Safety Instructor at Michigan State University, and he is CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness. “Use By” and “Sell By” dates usually represent product quality, or maximum flavor and freshness. “After that date, manufacturers can no longer guarantee their products. [will be] It’s the most delicious,” says Baum.


In other words, canned dates indicate quality, not safety. There are other ways to tell if canned food is spoiled and safe to eat.



What is the shelf life of unopened cans?

According to Bryan Quoc Le, if you have a collection of canned goods in your pantry or cupboard, it’s nice to know that they can be kept indefinitely for at least a few years (yes, years!) from the label date. , PhD, Food Consultant and Author Answer 150 questions about food science. In general, high acid foods (such as tomatoes) will keep their quality for 18 months from the “use by” or “sell by” date, while low acid foods (such as meat and vegetables) will last 2-5 months. Stay in top shape. Year.


However, the cans must be in good condition to maintain this long shelf life. This means no damage such as perforated rust, bulges, bulges, leaks, dents or holes.


Correct storage of canned food

Proper storage of canned food will keep it in good condition. Canned food should be stored in a cool, dry place, says Le. This is because heat and moisture can accelerate damage and rust. This means, as noted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, places such as under sinks, over stoves, and in damp basements are not recommended. is not. This can increase the risk of spoilage and can bursting, respectively.



When to give up canned food

The condition of the can affects the safety of its contents, so examining the can for physical signs can help determine whether it is safe to use. The USDA advises against eating food from cans that are leaking, bulging, badly dented, or punctured and rusty. The same goes for canned food that smells and liquids splatter when opened.


Canned food and botulism

These deformations create tiny holes in the cans that allow tiny amounts of oxygen to enter, said Le. “This creates an environment in which Clostridium botulinum spores can form spores, leading to bacterial growth. Clostridium botulinum‘ he adds. Even small amounts of oxygen Clostridium botulinum Botulism is a rare but serious disease that affects the nerves of the body.


Light rust is nothing to worry about. “If you can wipe the rust off with a wet cloth, the food inside is still safe. If the rust is extensive and you can’t wipe it off, throw the can away,” Baum says. It points out the packaging and canned food defect guidelines by the Bureau of Administration Association. It includes pictures to help you decide if dented or rusted cans are safe or should be discarded.



home canned food

With proper handling, home canning can last for years, says Baum. The quality and nutritional value of this product will decrease over time, but you can enjoy it with confidence. However, if the lid of your home can pops or bulges, throw it out. Baum says this happens when bacteria that aren’t killed during the cooking process grow and release gas, causing the lid to burst or swell.



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