Canned Food Safety

Jodee Redmond
open can of food

Becoming knowledgeable about canned food safety is important to anyone who is working with or preparing food. These types of foods, which include soups, meats, vegetables and fruits, are staples on many people's pantry shelves.

Food Canning Procedures

When food is being prepared for consumer use and is presented in a can or a jar, it is heated to a high temperature. This procedure is followed so that any microorganisms that could cause the food to spoil or make the consumer ill are destroyed. Heating also removes air from the food and creates a vacuum. Once the vacuum is in place, the food cannot be contaminated by microorganisms.

Canned Food Safety Tips

Practicing canned food safety tips starts when you are selecting items in a store. If you see a can that is dented or cracked, don't buy it. If you see a bulge in the lid or the container is leaking, this is also an indication that the seal has been broken and the contents may not be safe for consumption.

Another sign that you should skip buying a canned item is if the product is dusty. This is an indication that it may have been sitting on the shelf too long. Torn labels are another sign that the stock has been sitting for a long time. You are better off to choose to buy something else than to take a chance on a can that may be contaminated.

When you get the canned food items home, make sure that you rotate the items so that you use the ones that have been in the pantry the longest first. Take the time to rotate the canned items so that you can do so.

Most canned foods can safely be stored and used for up to 12 months. A food with a high acid content, such as ones containing tomatoes or fruit, can be used within 18 months. You can safely use canned vegetables for between two and five years.

To preserve the quality of the canned food, choose a cool, dry place to store it. Make sure these items are not stored near your stove or range. If you use a basement storage area for these items, make sure that it is not located close to your furnace or the heating pipes.

Keep canned goods away from direct sunlight. The heat can affect the shelf life of the product.

The cans should be kept dry so that the metal lids don't rust. Once rust sets in, it can cause the can to leak and the food inside to spoil.

Check the instructions on the label if you are planning to store a canned food item after opening it. You don't need to put peanut butter or vinegar in the fridge, but other foods should be refrigerated after opening.

If you will be storing opened food items in the fridge, place the food into a glass or plastic container. Plan to eat the refrigerated items within two or three days. Due to their higher acid content, tomato sauces and fruit should be consumed within five-seven days.

When you open a canned food item, examine the contents carefully before you eat it. If you have any doubts about canned food safety, throw the item out. It's a better choice than running the risk of coming down with a food-borne illness.

Best Before Dates on Canned Foods

The numbers that appear on a canned food item don't necessarily indicate its Best Before date. They are used to indicate information for the manufacturer. Unless you see BB before the number, this is not a reliable indication of how soon you should use the item.

When it comes to canned food safety, the saying "When in Doubt Throw it Out" is the best way to proceed.

Canned Food Safety