How Long Does Canned Food Last?
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The great thing about canned foods is that you can buy them at any grocery store. That’s important if you’re trying to stock up, but a big question many people ask is how long canned food actually lasts. Is the “best by” date correct or not?
That is the topic of this video by Sensible Prepper. He explains how decided if you should keep your expired canned food or throw it out.
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About “Best By” Dates
Look at the bottom of any can. You should see a “best by” date. What’s important to know is that it’s a quality statement; it’s not about food safety. The USDA does not require a safe date because canned goods are so well sealed. The “best by” date is all about optimal freshness.
A Note on Acidic Foods
Acidic foods like tomatoes in a can may go bad faster as opposed to more ph-balanced foods like lima beans.
Why Storage Temperature is So Important
The USDA recommends a storage temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Temperatures above 75 degrees for an extended time can cause a can to expand and bulge. If any of your canned food demonstrates any type of bulging, discard it.
What About Dented Cans?
If the can has a slight dent, it should be okay. Deeply dented cans could compromise the seal and allow bacteria to enter. They are best discarded.
Always Do a Few Checks After Opening Any Can
The first thing you should do is smell the contents. If it has an off odor or foul smell, immediately discard it. Also, look at the appearance. It may have faded a bit in terms of color, but it should look like what you expect to see.
What About Botulism?
Botulism is a dangerous form of food born bacteria and it can kill you. Fortunately, canned foods are processed under strict supervision from the USDA and both oxygen and bacteria cannot enter the package. The biggest problem with botulism is with home-canned foods.
If in Doubt, Throw it Out
Regardless of how safe canned foods can be, always do the smell test and check the appearance. Also look for serious dents, rust, or cracked seams. If in doubt, throw it out.
Off-Grid Can Opening
Make sure you have a hand-operated can opener. Some cans have pull tabs for easy opening, but an electric can opener is useless if there’s any problem with the power grid.
Make sure you keep a variety of canned foods stored. Not only to relieve the monotony of eating the same thing, but to diversify the nutrition. That includes a variety of canned meats, fruits, vegetables, and seafood like tuna and sardines.
Rotate Your Foods
Grocery stores always stock new foods towards the back of the shelf. You should do the same, so the freshest canned food is eaten at a later date and the older food is consumed in a timely manner.
Hold Onto Those Forgotten Cans
If you have canned foods in the back of the pantry, don’t automatically throw them out. Eat them as soon as you can and do a check for smell and appearance.