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Oct 18, 2006 08:43 PM

Canned Food Shelf Life - how long is it?

Is there a recommended 'shelf life' for canned food?

I opened a really old (maybe 5-7 years) can of chicken noodle soup and wasn't sure if it was still 'good'. There were no date or information to that end on the can of any sort.

Which got me to thinking about earthquake preparedness. Us Southern Californian folk are 'supposed' to have earthquake supplies on hand. How long can you keep canned goods? Does it matter what's inside the can?


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  1. I volunteer in a food pantry and we deal with this all the time. Most cans do not have use by dates, though I think there is a code that tells you when it was canned, if you know how to decipher it. People donate old food and we have no idea how old it is or whether it's safe to give out. I've been guilty of that, too--when we lived in California, I'd rotate my earthquake supplies and give the old ones (every 6 months) to shelters, which is what they recommended. I did find this:

    : How long can I store an unopened food product?
    A: Unopened canned products usually last up to two years, if the can remains intact. Food products other than canned products may contain a "best-if-used-by" date which can give you guidance on storage.

    1. I've used stuff that was years old; but I recently opened a can of dried coconut that, the second you saw it, you knew something was wrong. It was very brown. Personally if it looks good and smells good and the can isn't bulging, I don't worry. But obviously that's just me (and I'm alive and well).

      1. If the lid isn't convex, let alone bulging, leaky or something actually spurts out when you open it (indicating positive pressure in the can instead of vacuum), it should be "safe." Something - canned tomatoes, fruit, vegs, deteriorate relatively quickly in terms of texture especially and taste, but a year should be perfectly fine and some things you probably wouldn't notice a difference after several. As with any preserved food, the more even and "cool" you can keep the temperature, the longer it will last in good condition. Dry too, but I don't imagine that's a big problem in SoCal.;)

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