With the concern that coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused, many people have been buying additional food and household supplies. Others may be relying on food storage they already have on hand. In either case, you may be wondering how long your commercially or home canned food is good. Here are some general guidelines for commercially and home canned foods.
Commercially Canned Food
The recommended shelf life of commercially canned food is at least two years from the date of processing. The longer food is stored the more the quality (flavor, texture, color, odor, and nutrition) will decline. However, food retains its safety and nutritional value well beyond two years. Canning is a high-heat process that renders the food commercially sterile. Food safety is not an issue in products kept on the shelf or in the pantry for long periods of time. In fact, canned food has an almost indefinite shelf life at moderate temperatures (75 degrees Fahrenheit and below).
Home Canned Food
Food processed according to the most recent United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines is safe to eat at any time in the future if the seal is still intact and there is no evidence of spoilage. It is suggested that no more food be preserved than can be used in one to two years. This is because the quality of the products deteriorates with longer storage. So, there will be undesirable changes in color, texture, and flavor. There may also be losses in nutrient content as the food is stored longer. Proper storage is important. Store canned foods in a cool, dry, dark place for optimum shelf life. Canned food stored in a warm place near hot pipes, a range, a furnace, or in indirect sunlight may lose some of its quality in a few weeks or months, depending on the temperature. Dampness may corrode cans or metal lids and cause leakage so the food will spoil.
Before using canned foods that are past their recommended shelf life, determine the safety of the food. The following list indicates times when canned foods are not considered safe to eat. When in doubt if a food is safe to eat, throw it out. Do not taste any food which may be unsafe.
n Home canned foods that were not processed according to the latest USDA guidelines.
n Canned foods that have obvious signs of spoilage.
n Bulging ends or lids
n Leaking cans or bottles
n Milky appearance to liquids
n Mold growth of any kind
n Slimy appearance or texture
n Rancid odor
n Corrosion on the inside of can – especially along the seam of the can
n Rust – especially along the seam or seal of can
n Frozen can or bottle – freezing produces hairline fractures in the seal and allows spoilage to begin.
n Off smell – undesirable odor