Canned Food: How Long Can You Keep It

canned foodA woman was cleaning out their pantry and found a three-year-old can of chicken noodle soup. To her surprise, it was still good. Which brings us to the question: How long can you keep canned foods?

How long you can keep canned food?

Canned foods prepared commercially have a relatively long shelf-life compared to other food products. Depending on the type of canned food, the length of time that you can keep it ranges from months to years. High-acid foods like fruits, fruit juice, pickled products, and tomatoes can be safely stored for about 18 months. On the other hand, low-acid foods like meat, mixed vegetables, green beans, corn, mushrooms, etc. can be safely kept for 2-5 years. Canned foods start to lose some of their eating quality past these dates.

Factors affecting shelf-life

There are many factors that cut the length of time you can safely store canned foods. We all know that cans do corrode. High-acid foods such as fruit juices and tomatoes react chemically with the metal container. After a period of time, this chemical reaction may change the taste and texture of the food, also lowering its nutrient content. Storing canned foods in damp places can also corrode the can. Rust deep enough can bore tiny holes in the can, resulting in food spoilage. Shipping accidents that crush or dent cans can also result in food spoilage.

In general, canned foods properly stored in a dry, cool dry place will still be good for at least a year. Those stored in less than ideal place, near a furnace, range, hot pipes, or in indirect sunlight may affect their eating quality. Placing them in warm places will result in less than optimum eating quality in just a few months or even weeks, depending on the level of hotness of the place. Temperatures higher than 100ºF can harm canned foods – food spoilage risk significantly increases as storage temperature rises. The risk of nutrient loss also increases even at the storage temperature of 75ºF or higher.

Storing canned food properly

To store canned food properly, you must store them in clean, dry, cool place where room temperatures are not higher than 75ºF. The ideal temperature for storing canned foods is between 60ºF – 70ºF. For best quality and safety, you have to consume canned foods within 2 years.

You must always look for the expiration date printed on the can. In addition, you should examine the cans before you buy them. Do not buy cans that have dents, are bulging or leaking. Look for signs of tampering as this can indicate a food poisoning threat. Moreover, do not eat canned foods that emit foul odor or spurt liquid after you open it. If this is the case, do not ever taste the food, throw it away.

These guidelines apply to both commercial canned foods as well as home-canned foods.