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Old 10/13/09, 07:34 AM
Sarabeth's Avatar
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: SW PA
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Canned goods shelf life

I am curious about the shelf life of store bought canned goods - peaches, soups, etc. We have a discount grocer nearby where you can get wonderful deals. I always check dates, because many items are near to or just expired. But REALLY - how much does that matter for say fruit? I have purchased Del Monte pears for 50 cents per can that were just expired. Of course they were fine, but I was hesitant to but too many because of the date. Now I wish I had bought more because I was unable to home can pears this year.....

So what do you honestly think? I think the safety should be fine for a year or so past the sell by date. I realize the quality deteriorates some, and I do home can many many things. But for stocking up purposes on items my family likes and would eat, what do you think?

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Old 10/13/09, 07:47 AM
hillbillygal's Avatar
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: TN
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I shop at a store similar to that down here and I have no reservations about buying the out of date canned goods. Jackie Clay answered a question about this on her blog a few weeks ago:

I felt this way before but her opinion carries a lot of weight with me so it confirmed it.
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Old 10/13/09, 08:10 AM
Delrio's Avatar  
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Booger County, MO
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Here's that part of Jackies article:

Expiration dates of canned food

Regarding canned food that is purchased at the grocery store, how much faith do you put in the printed expiration dates? Is it dependent on the type of food? Should anything past the expiration date be automatically thrown away?

Tracy & Bill
Kenmore, New York

Regarding expiration dates on store bought canned foods; I put no faith in them whatsoever. The canned food is good nearly to infinity if properly stored (cool, dry location). I feel it’s a ploy to get folks to throw away perfectly good food and BUY more; i.e. more profits for them! Hogwash.

Of course, fresh foods, such as dairy products, meats, poultry, etc. will eventually spoil if kept over so many days, for them the freshness date IS truly relevant. — Jackie
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Old 10/13/09, 08:55 AM
Callieslamb's Avatar  
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: SW Michigan
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I think they have better vitamin content if eatten before the date...other than that, I look at that date as a suggestion of how much better it would look for the store to have sold it before then. Eat away.
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Old 10/13/09, 08:57 AM
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Look at what is actually stamped on the can, most say "best by" and people interpret that to mean "bad after" but it is not the case. Canned foods will slowly lose their nutritional value so after many years you can still eat them (won't make you sick) but the nutritional value is not there. So technically there is a "best by" time with canned goods. Just like when it says that broccoli is "best" for nutritional value eaten raw - that does not mean there is anything wrong with eating it cooked.

Most things that actually will go bad say "use by" or "sell by" or "expiration date" and those mean something very different than the "best by" date on canned goods.

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Old 10/13/09, 09:46 AM
A.T. Hagan
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The "best by" shelf life of a typical canned good is two years at normal room temperatures. Lower the storage temperature increase the shelf life. Raise the storage temperature and you decrease it.

But as others have noted if the 'best by' date passes it does not necessary mean the food is no longer good to eat. In fact most foods remain safe and nutritious to eat for at least a couple more years and sometimes longer.

The food is however steadily growing older and will eventually begin to show its age as the color fades, texture becomes increasingly mushy, the food begins to 'taste of the can', and the more sensitive nutrients decline. Exactly how fast this happens depends on the particular food, how it was processed, the can lining, and the quality it started out as. Sometimes the name brands are the better buy because of this.

If it's part of your regular every day diet and you're eating other, fresher foods as well then old canned goods don't much matter. You'll probably make up for any nutritional shortcomings from other foods. If the can of fruit you just opened is mushy and faded there are other foods you'll be eating in the near future that will be better.

For the folks who keep long-term food storage that might one day be relying on that food for a substantial portion of their diet (or all of it) then things are different, but if you're not concerned with that then buy as much of it as you want and don't worry about it.

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Old 10/13/09, 11:19 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: KY
Posts: 12,678
Much of my food storage is cans. I try to keep a good rotation on these, but ever so often one will escape my inventory. I've only had one "bad" can and that was a can of LeSeur Peas. The can exploded and was about 5 years out of date. Why it exploded I can't say, but I'm going to guess it was a defective can in some way. The contents weren't horrible smelling; it was just a mess of peas everywhere. I use fresh or frozen fresh food when possible, but I also use canned food to extend the food supply. It's ok to mix a bag of frozen fresh green beans with a can of store bought green beans to make a recipe if there's a lot of people to feed. Here, it's just the two of us and we'll eat the fresh food first, but when that runs out we eat the store bought can food. Gets us by without making so many grocery runs.

And another big reason I do store bought can storage is because of the limited food storage space here. I can stack 96 cans of store bought cans into the same space it takes for 2 cardboard boxes of quart canning jars.
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Old 10/13/09, 12:07 PM
SteveD(TX)'s Avatar  
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Posts: 5,373
I recently tried to use two cans of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk that were about 2 years old. In both cans, the milk had gotten so dark and thick that it was unuseable.
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Old 10/13/09, 12:19 PM
A.T. Hagan
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Condensed milk is an exception to the 'two year rule' in that at most storage temperatures you get about a year, maybe a bit more, before it darkens to the point it won't be attractive any more.

I've got a couple of cans in my kitchen right now that are over the age limit. They look like butterscotch though the flavor isn't bad - sort of caramel. Not attractive in a Key lime pie, but in the bread I've been making they get the job done.

Another exception to the rule is canned pineapple. Highly acidic foods typically have shorter shelf lives (like tomatoes), but in my experience canned pineapple has held up well. We ate some a few years ago that was nearly four years old that was still quite good.

Canned peaches on the other hand tend go to mushy and unattractive sooner than many other fruits. Those in heavy syrup hold up better than the light syrup or fruit juice packs, but still not as long as some other kinds of fruit.

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Old 10/13/09, 05:11 PM
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Moving from NM to TX, & back to NM.
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Temperature is the MOST important factor in storage of food. The 2nd is light. The 3rd is air [actually oxygen].

tin canned food takes care of the last 2, so the major item you have to control is temp. Basement, root cellar, insulated closet with small AC unit, or even a wine cooler can be used to store your foods in a cool low humidity environment.
We will meet in the golden city, called the New Jerusalem,
All our pain and all our tears will be no more.....
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Old 10/13/09, 05:55 PM
Brenda Groth
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Michigan
Posts: 7,817
sure canned goods and things can go beyond the expiration date..but good grief why should they..

we should always rotate our food and eat the oldest that they don't get bad..and if you have so many that you can't eat them up then maybe you are buying too many canned foods..

if you rotate your food you can always keep 2 years worth of food in most houses..very easily..and who needs more than that..if canned goods keep 2 years..then you are well within your expiration dates if you use the oldest first.

i think it is just poor use of storage and common sense to see how long you can keep a can on the shelf..even if you can..why would you.

October is generally the time of year to buy canned goods on the biggest sales.

the best way to keep food fresh is to use a good organizational your that you know what you have..use it..and buy fresh and put it behind the older items..keep a list when you are getting low..myself i put all my cans in a line in the pantry..i can stack them two i put say carrots on top of green beans..and beside them corn on top of beets, beside them pears on top of peaches..and so on..when they are so far back into the pantry i can't comfortably reach the next can..i pull them out and put a few new cans behind them..then i know i won't run out.
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Old 10/13/09, 06:03 PM
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There was a thread not long ago about someone wondering whether or not to buy canned foods that someone had bought for Y2K . I almost replied then & will now . When I was in the military in the early 70's we ate c-rations that was left over from WW2 . Canned fruit , meat & other items . Didn't kill anyone that I know of .
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Old 10/13/09, 06:38 PM
Sarabeth's Avatar
Learning to love today...
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: SW PA
Posts: 766
Thanks everyone. You confirmed basically what I think. These are not foods I would 'rely' on (I hope) but more 'fill in' type things. It just seems if I can get something good at 50 cents a can - I should buy up - as long as it's something we'll eat!!

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