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Ask Tess: How long do canned goods last?

There are a lot questions surrounding the storage times of these canned foods. The stamp on the can does not necessarily indicate a spoilage date. Read more about storage times for canned goods here.


How long can canned goods last?

A Reader



Thank you for asking this great question, as it has been one that I have wanted to respond to for a while. First, I’d like to address the two different types of canned goods – the commercially bought kind and the home canned kind.

There are a lot questions surrounding the storage times of these canned foods. The stamp on the can does not necessarily indicate a spoilage date. The date is a “best by” date and can be consumed after the stamped date comes and goes. Here are some facts and tips to help you store up your canned foods.

Commercially Canned Goods:

Commercial canned food is a high-heat process that renders the food commercially sterile and has a shelf life of at least two years from the date of processing. However, as long as the cans are stored in a cool, dark place and are void of any dents, bulges or damage, canned food retains its safety and nutritional value well beyond the two years. I would do a smell and sight test before consuming just to make sure the food is edible.

Did you know that canned food has an almost indefinite shelf life when stored at moderate temperatures (75° F and below)? Canned food as old as 100 years has been found in sunken ships and it is still microbiologically safe! We don’t recommend keeping canned food for 100 years, but if the can is intact, not dented or bulging, it is edible. Keep in mind, that it may have some variation in quality, such as a change of color and texture.

Home Canned Goods:

I like to tell my readers to use their home canned goods within 12 months of the canning date, but the storage life can be prolonged by many years if they remain sealed and stored properly. Most canned foods depreciate in quality after about two years. Older canned goods may still retain nutritional value, but their color, taste and texture will change depending on the age and type of food being preserved (Source: Mealtime.org).

A danger to all canned foods is from the Clostridium botulinum bacteria, which causes botulism. Food-borne botulism is an extremely dangerous form of food poisoning that may occur when food is improperly heated during the canning process. Most cases in the United States come from home-canned vegetables, so the CDC recommends boiling all home-canned foods for 10 minutes before consumption. Outbreaks are rare, but the botulinum toxin is generally considered to be the most poisonous substance in the world, and one gram could kill as many as 10 million people (Source: Davidson).

I hope this helps you in creating a balanced preparedness pantry.




This article was originally published at Ready Nutrition™ on August 20th, 2013

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