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May 10, 2007 09:15 AM

Is it bad to store opened canned food in its can??

My mother always taught me to never store opeend canned food in its can. I have no idea why - but it was a cardinal sin.

Yesterday, I opened up a can of kidney beans and a can of garbanzo beans at work (in my effort to 'eat healthier/make salad at work') - and didn't have any containers to put the left overs in ... so I put some saran wrap over the cans and put them in the refrigerator -- but it left me wondering... is it bad or potentially harmful to store it that way?

The only 'bad' thing I can think would happen is the top of the can would rust (where it was opened) and perhaps pieces of rust would get in the food ?? but, other than that, seems like it would be ok to store it in the can it came in....

...was mom leading me astray?

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  1. Yes, my mother always taught us the same thing. According to food storage tips on the internet, storing food in metal cans is safe, if not a bit unsanitary....because of where the can has been...warehouses, etc. The food can develop a "tinny" taste and suffer other loss of quality. Some foods, particularly acidic ones, can discolor. I left tomato paste in the can, once, and all of the above occurred. It is best to store food in the proper containers.

    1. I thought the danger was in lead but maybe that was from awhile back which is why your mom might have warned you. I don't think they can use lead in soldering for food cans anymore in the US.

      1. Many cans now seem to have some thin plastic lining, but I wouldn't leave it more than a day. And, I wash the tops of cans before opening 'em, because that is even more of a concern....they have touched everyplace they have been in transit.

        1. Your mother and grandmother were right - once upon a time when tin cans were made from tin and soldered with stuff that probably did have lead in it. But we've come a long way in food processing since then. Modern cans are safe, most are made from non-reactive materials and are lined so that it's safe to store food in them for the short-term. After a while, anything will get icky.
          The only cans I've been wary of are some imports. I've had them leak in the pantry or corrode along the seams. I usually don't store food in those and I'm really careful about inspecting the cans as I use those products. Any doubts and I throw them out.
          Always wash the tops of cans before you open them. You have know idea where they have been stored or how many dirty hands have touched them.

          1 Reply
          1. re: MakingSense

            I agree.

            I wash and/or wipe every can that makes its way into my cupboard.
            Top and bottom, actually. I'm very clean and so are my cupboards as a result : )

          2. This is an interesting comment because I have been told the same thing and have always avoided storing foods in opened "tin" cans. Then I saw an episode of "Good Eats" in which Alton Brown makes a layered desert of macerated strawberries and slices of potato bread that are placed in used cans over night with a weight on them to compress the mixture.

            I also have a Foodsaver and use their vacuum lids on top of opened cans to store food for a while. Of course most of the air is removed so there will be less oxidation. I'm sure the modern can liners also minimize this reaction. I called the Foodsaver folks on this and they told me there was no problem.

            So as other posters mention I suspect the manner in which modern cans are made and the materials they are made from all contribute to eliminating the problem.