Canned food safety tips revealed
Canned food is convenient. Pantries that include a variety of canned foods make it possible to whip up last-minute meals. And because canned foods have longer shelf lives than fresh items, making them a part of your pantry can reduce food waste. That’s a significant benefit for shoppers’ bottom lines as well as the planet, as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations notes that roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted.
Canned foods may be more convenient than fresh foods, but home cooks should still follow a few simple pointers to ensure canned items are safe to eat.
• Don’t presume that canned foods last forever. The Food Safety and Inspection Service, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture, notes that there are limits to how long canned foods will remain preserved. Always adhere to the expiration date on the can. If an item has expired, do not eat it or serve it.
• Be especially careful with high-acid canned foods. The FSIS notes that canned foods, and especially certain high-acid foods, such as tomatoes, have natural chemicals that can react with the container over time. This can cause changes in the texture and taste of the foods, and may even adversely affect their nutritional value. If the can is corroded or the foods’ appearance is abnormal, do not eat or serve it.
• Avoid storing canned foods at high temperatures. According to the FSIS, the risk of spoilage increases sharply as the storage temperatures rise. Temperatures 100 F and above are harmful to canned goods, so do your best to keep storage conditions mild.
• Store items in dry places. In addition to storing canned foods in cool places, make sure they’re stored in dry areas. Never keep canned foods beneath a sink or beside a stove. Extra storage in garages or basements may seem like great places to store canned items purchased in bulk, but such areas tend to be damp and often experience extreme temperature changes between seasons.
Both of those conditions can compromise canned foods.
Canned foods can be healthy additions to any diet, but only if they’re stored properly and do not outlive their expiration dates.