Food Safety: Is It Safe To Eat Canned Food Past Their Expiration Date?

Several factors may influence the lifespan of canned food. These factors include corrosion and rusting, high temperatures, and container problems. Over a long period, canned food will experience taste and texture changes, which may cause them to lose nutritional value. It is highly recommended to consume different types of canned products by a certain time for the best quality.

By Cookist
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A number of people have questioned whether it is safe to eat canned foods past their "expiration" date. Even though canned food past their "use-by" date might not taste optimal, there is no known real health risk in the consumption of canned goods as long as they remain in good condition. It should be known that bulging, rusted, leaking or dented cans containing food should not be purchased, and canned food should be stored at room temperature, which is not too hot.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, shelf-stable foods are safe to eat indefinitely and can be eaten well past the expiration date. Kimberly Baker, PhD., RD, LD Director, Food Systems and Safety Program Team (Cooperative Extension) at Clemson University, spelled out that the expiration dates and "use-by" or "best-by" dates seen on cans of food do not indicate when the food will spoil or go bad. Manufactured canned goods are still safe to eat after that time.

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The drawback, as explained by Kimberly Baker, is that the further the canned foods get from the expiration date, the more quality of the product may be lost. Although the canned food can still be consumed, just that the color, taste, or texture would not be the same as it was produced.

High acid canned goods such as canned fruits, including tomatoes, should be eaten within 1-2 years past their expiration date, while low acid canned goods like Canned Vegetables, Meats, and Soups should be eaten within 2-3 years past their expiration date. Shelf-stable Milk like evaporated milk or condensed milk should be used within a year of their expiration date. And this applies to powdered milk as well.

Lastly, the best way to find out if an undamaged can is still edible is simply to open it up to taste, smell, and examine the contents. Heather Moon, PR Manager of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, stated that anything with mold, fungus or off-odors should not be consumed but thrown out.

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Food-poisoning bacteria do not grow in the freezer, so no matter how long a food is frozen, it is safe to eat. Foods that have been in the freezer for months (recommended freezer times chart) may be dry or may not taste as good, but they will be safe to eat. So if a package of ground beef in the freezer for more than a few months is found, it should not be thrown out.

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