Expired Canned foods: Still Good to eat?

Canned food has an expiration date, but what does it actually mean? Once the date is reached,  should you throw the can in the garbage and buy fresh. The US spends around 250 billion USD each year growing and disposing of foods that have passed their expiry date, and it is an incredible amount of money and food waste.

Did you know that dates on canned food are not mandated by the FDA ( for other food than baby formula)? The manufacturer’s dates on cans are voluntary, which adds to the confusion about when canned foods expire.

This article will export the dates on canned foods and answer many frequently asked questions so you have the best information available on expiry dates on canned foods.

Let’s get into it.

Are canned foods good past expiration?

Everybody has experienced this while searching the cupboard or freezer for something, and you find food left unattended. Your initial reaction is to discard it but hold your horses. Does it remain good?

No matter how long a meal is frozen, it is safe to eat since food-poisoning microorganisms cannot thrive there. Foods in the freezer for weeks or months will still be safe to consume, though they may be dry or taste bland. 

Therefore, don’t throw out any packages of ground beef that have been in the freezer for longer than a few months. Use it to prepare tacos or chili. The flavors and extra components can compensate for taste loss.

What are the items in your pantry? What about them? Most foods that are shelf-stable are entirely safe. In reality, if the can itself is in good shape, canned products will survive for years (no rust, dents, or swelling).

 Even while packaged items (cereal, pasta, and cookies) may ultimately go bad or take on an unpleasant flavor, they will still be safe to eat after the “best by” date, which is notional on behalf of the manufacturer.

When you open the packaging, you’ll be able to see if the food has lost any quality. So many dates on goods are for quality alone, not food safety.

If you need the information verified or suspect that the information is wrong, consult the USDA to verify the facts.

Can canned food last 20 years?

In theory, yes, canned foods can last for 20 years, they may not taste fantastic, but they will be safe to eat.

Experts generally agree the life of canned foods is two years to achieve peak quality of the food. After this point, they suggest the food quality will diminish, and the contents of the can may lose their flavor profile and become bland while the texture will also deteriorate.

However, as you would expect, the experts come from the food industry and not the conserved food as long as you can party, so maybe they have a vested interest in telling you canned foods have a 2-year shelf life.

There are a few caveats that make sense when storing canned foods:

  • Don’t use canned foods with dents. A dent could indicate the can has been damaged and has allowed bacteria to enter and spoil the food.
  • Don’t use canned foods that are rusty and have leakage signs on the labeling, the liquid that has caused the rust could be the fluid seepage from the can. It’s garbage. Toss it.
  • Don’t use cans that are swollen. A swollen can indicates that there is internal pressure from gas that is likely caused by bacteria. Toss it in the garbage.
  • Don’t use a can of food if you hear a pressure release when it opens or if the can has spurted liquid. The contents of the can are contaminated and should be discarded immediately.

It is fair to say that most canned foods are shelf-stable for an indefinite and indeterminable time.

What is the longest-lasting canned food?

There are claims that some canned foods can last 30 years. It seems like a long time to hold on to a can of food, but if it’s okay, why not.

Irs suggested that low-acid-canned foods have a longer shelf life, and low-acid foods include canned veggies and meats. High-acid food is items such as tomatoes and fruits.

The canned food that has been recorded to last the longest time are:

  • Canned meat can last from 4 to 30 years, it may seem an incredible amount of time, and after thirty years, the quality of the meat will be questionable. In addition, you may consider that canned meat in 1982 will not be as advanced in the process as canned meat in 2022.
  • Vegetables are said to have a shelf life of 3 to 6 years.
  • Beans 3 to 6 years
  • Canned fish 3 to 6 years
  • Canned rice 2 to 6 years
  • Canned soup 2 to 5 years
  • Canned fruits 1 to 2 years.

The length of time is purely estimated in time, so it is a subjective time for storage.

Is it bad to keep cans in the fridge?

It would be a reasonable assumption that storing canned foods in the fridge would extend the shelf life of the canned food. After all, food does not perish so quickly in the fridge at lower temperatures.

However, it seems as if storing canned foods in the fridge can be fraught with unforeseen problems or, to be specific, a problem.

Your fridge is nice and cool, perfect for storing chilled foods for a few days, but how many times in the day does your fridge door open and close?

Every time the fridge door opens, the cool air seeps out from the bottom of the fridge, drawing warm ambient moist air into the top of the fridge.

The warm air will have a point where it’s laden with moisture that turns to condensation in the fridge, and more importantly, on canned foods, condensation equals rust, and rust on cans is bad news.

How do you extend the life of canned food?

If the can is in good condition, it should be able to cope with any alterations in temperature in the room as long as it’s not exposed to direct heat or sunlight.

It is best to store canned foods in cool, dark places like the pantry or an infrequently used kitchen cabinet. Keep cans away from radiators and hot pipes running through cabinets and pantries.

Before you store them, you can wipe them down with a damp cloth to ensure the can is free from dust and chrome, which will help the can stay in good shape.

Are shelf-stable foods healthy?

If you take a famous brand of cooked pork and ham that was feeding the US troops in WW2, you could not say it’s the healthiest food in the world. It’s loaded with sodium and preservatives and is suggested as the longest-lasting canned food.

Buying canned foods today can be hit and miss, but many soups and broths are just plain veggies and meat without preservatives and a little salt for taste, but you could consider their wholesome foods.

They have been canned, pasteurized, and sealed in an environment without oxygen (anaerobic) which ensures microorganisms cant grow.

Of course, shelf-stable foods have sugars and salts added but only what is needed for flavor and rarely for preservation.

What is the best-canned food to stockpile?

Preppers were initially thought of as slightly crazy as they prepared for the apocalypse. Still, in recent times it seems they may have had an insight into the future and that stocking up on the essentials is a good idea as the economy crashes around our ears.

Stocking up on canned vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, peas, and beans are staples for many families, so having a stock will help if the untoward happens.

Do you know canned foods are cooked? Cold-baked beans are glorious. If you don’t have a heat source, they can be eaten safely direct from the can.

However, stockpiling one style of canned food is not a good idea. You will still need a balanced diet to function correctly over an extended time.

How do you know canned food has gone bad?

You must familiarize yourself with canned food that has turned bad. The signs are subtle and other times, overt.

However, consuming canned foods can lead to severe food poisoning, so being aware of the red flags is imperative. 

If your cans are :

  • the container is leaking, bulging, or swollen;
  • the container looks damaged, cracked, or abnormal;
  • the container spurts liquid or foam when opened; or.
  • The food is discolored, moldy, or smells bad.

When the can is opened, it will be evident that if the food is bad, it will smell awful and be discolored with mold growing. At this point or any other point when a can becomes damaged, the contents are garbage and should be discarded immediately. 

Final thoughts

It’s incredible to think that the dates on canned foods are not mandated by the FDA and are placed on the can voluntarily by the manufacturers. They indicate the peak quality and not that the contents of the can have expired.

Expiration dates can be ignored (not on baby formula), and you can store and eat expired canned foods for many years.

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