Wondering if your canned food is still good for consumption even after its expiration date? We have got all the answers.
Everyone loves home-cooked meals, but most of us don’t always have the time to make the food entirely from scratch. Having non-perishable foods like canned foods can be a lifesaver when looking for ingredients to make an easy dinner or when you’re too busy to go to the grocery for fresh produce.
Many long-lasting foods are also great in emergencies like power outages and snowstorms. Besides, they are affordable and boast great nutrition. But how long does canned food really last? Can one ignore the sell-by date stamped on it? Is it actually safe to eat canned food past the expiration date?
It’s happened to all of us: you are looking into the pantry, and you find a few canned foods past their sell-by date. Your first impulse is to throw it out, but wait! Has it really gone bad? It depends, but judging from how canned foods are produced, they actually last a long time.
The truth about canned food expiration dates is surprising, and the short answer as to whether people should ignore the expiry date— is both yes and no!
According to USDA, most shelf-stable foods are safe indefinitely as long as the can itself is in good condition (no rust, swelling, or dents). “The product should still be safe and wholesome if handled properly until the time spoilage is evident,” according to the USDA.
In addition, you’ll know when you open the can if the food has lost quality. However, there is no guarantee that the canned food’s texture and taste will be the same as before the expiration date. Any food with an odd smell, texture, or color should be composted or trashed.
Whether you are looking for tips to extend the life of your favorite canned food or want to know exactly how long that canned food in your pantry will last, here is a specific breakdown to answer all your questions.
What do the expiration dates on canned food mean?
Dates on canned food aren’t expiration dates. Canned foods have two main labels you’ll find on the can: the “best-by” or use-by” dates, which are intended to ensure quality and not safety. Here is the meaning of the two terms:
- “Best-By” Date: the food manufacturer recommends the date for best physical and/or sensory quality.
- “Use-By” Date: the food manufacturer recommends this date when the product will be at its peak of texture, flavor, and freshness. The quality of the food deteriorates after this date, but it is still edible nonetheless.
It’s important that you make it a habit to use or freeze perishable food within a few days of purchase rather than relying on these dates. Freezing ensures safety indefinitely, but the quality will deteriorate over time.
Is It Safe to Eat Expired Canned Food?
Yes, it’s safe to eat canned foods past their expiration date. Consuming canned foods past their “best by” date poses no real health risk as long as they remain in good condition.
- The “best-by” and “user-by” dates stamped on the cans indicate when the manufacturer estimates the food will have lost its peak nutritional value, freshness, and quality. They aren’t perfect indicators of how long canned food lasts because they have nothing to do with food safety.
- The canned food container is commercially sterile and has a vacuum seal, which prevents any bacteria from penetrating, so it’s almost impossible for the food to spoil. However, always ensure you don’t buy rusted, bulging, dented, or leaking cans. Also, store the cans in a cool, dry place. USDA also adds that you should never store the food in any place exposed to low or high temperatures.
After You Open a Can, How Long Does the Canned Food Last?
Canned food doesn’t last long after you open it. It’s recommended that you store the leftovers in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage. You can put the food in a glass or plastic storage container for the best quality and flavor preservation.
Low-acid canned foods, such as fish, stew, beans, carrots, pasta, corn, peas, soups, spinach, and potatoes, can be stored in the refrigerator for three to four days. These canned foods are good on the shelf for 2 to 5 years before opening.
High-acid canned foods, such as pickles, fruit, juice, tomato products, and foods in vinegar-based sauces, can be stored in the refrigerator for five to seven days. These canned foods are good on the shelf and will last 12 to 18 months before opening.