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What is the shelf life of canned tuna, chicken?

chocolatetartguy Jan 4, 2008 12:48 PM

Found some cans of unknown vintage in the back of my cupboard. They did sport an older tag of the drugstore chain where I bought them. Wondering if they are still edible?

  1. MMRuth Jan 4, 2008 03:38 PM

    I think it's pretty darn long, but you can call the manufacturer and give them the numbers on the tins and they'll tell you if they are still okay or not. I've done that with mince meat.

    1. goodhealthgourmet Jan 4, 2008 05:02 PM

      as long as the can isn't bulging, it's safe to open...and then you can just do the smell/slime test to see if it's edible.

      or, as ruth said, you can call the manufacturer and give them the serial numbers.

      11 Replies
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet
        Pollo Jan 6, 2008 08:39 PM

        If you follow your "logic" you can end up with bot poisoning....

        1. re: Pollo
          alanbarnes Jan 7, 2008 08:01 AM

          Actually, the bulging can is a sign of bacterial growth. And in a sealed can, that usually means botulinum; the little buggers excrete gas as well as botulin. If the can retains a vacuum (no bulging, and a slight sucking noise when first punctured), that's a pretty good sign that bacteria are not present, and the risk of botulism is minimal.

          1. re: alanbarnes
            Pollo Jan 7, 2008 08:40 AM

            Not true...you can have bot toxin in perfectly "normally" appearing cans....

            1. re: Pollo
              alanbarnes Jan 7, 2008 09:01 AM

              Only if the can was improperly processed or its integrity has been compromised. Commercially canned foods are heated to 250F, which not only destroys c. bot spores but also neutralizes any toxins they might have produced. Sure, there's an opportunity for bacterial growth if the can rusts through or the seal fails, but wouldn't that also result in loss of vacuum?

              1. re: alanbarnes
                Pollo Jan 7, 2008 09:52 AM

                And in real life cans do get improperly processes and integrity gets routinely compromised and bot grows and people get sick.....

                1. re: Pollo
                  alanbarnes Jan 7, 2008 10:54 AM

                  The possibility that commercially canned food has been improperly processed is so vanishingly small as to be irrelevant. Of all the millions of batches of food canned in the US in 2007, two--count 'em, two--were contaminated with c. bot. And 2007 was the worst year in decades.

                  As far as a compromised can goes, there's physical evidence--the loss of vacuum. So that risk can be easily avoided.

                  I'm not saying that there isn't some risk of contracting botulism from eating canned foods. But it's far less likely than getting struck by lightning. So why worry about it?

                  1. re: alanbarnes
                    Pollo Jan 7, 2008 01:13 PM

                    Not true regarding your first point. Cases you mention are the only ones made public....there are many more that do not get reported for a variety of reasons. Also, not true the second point you make. You can get phisical contamination of a container by bot spores without the loss of vacuum.

                    1. re: Pollo
                      alanbarnes Jan 7, 2008 03:03 PM

                      Your claim that there are "many cases" of commercial food canners causing botulism outbreaks by improperly processing food is interesting. Your claim that the incidents are kept secret from the public is more interesting still. What would be **really** interesting would be if you could provide some support for those claims.

                      As to physical contamination, botulin toxin is only present in food if it has been excreted by botulinum bacteria. And any time that botulinum excrete botulin, they also excretes gas. Which reduces the vacuum in a sealed container. It's physically impossible for botulinum to produce botulin without at least some loss of vacuum.

                      1. re: alanbarnes
                        Pollo Jan 7, 2008 04:40 PM

                        To address your first point: if product is in physical posession of the processor then the information does not have to be released to the public....that's a fact. None of such information will be made public for obvious reasons but trust me when I tell you that such incidents are not infrequent. Underprocessing does occur at a rate much higher that you would think. To your second point: bot can produce toxin and make no or v. minimal changes to the level of vacuum so as to make the level of vacuum a v. poor guide as to the presence of toxin. The only way to definitively identify bot toxin in a container is to actually test for it. In many instances you will not recover viable bot organisms yet the toxin will be present. There is another bot "incident" that is "developing" as we speak so check out the FDA recall page for the latest news: http://www.fda.gov/opacom/7alerts.html

                        1. re: Pollo
                          alanbarnes Jan 7, 2008 05:07 PM

                          But if the product never leaves the physical posession of the processor, you don't really need to worry about eating it unless you're dumpster-diving behind a processing plant, now do you?

                          Oh, and by the way--the incident you linked to is one of the two I mentioned before. But I have to admit that the info I posted was incorrect; I called it an "outbreak" when in fact NOBODY EVER GOT SICK. A few dozen cans of beans were recalled, end of story.

                          Of course, you're free to spend as much time and energy as you wish worrying about contracting botulism from commercially processed food. But me, I'll focus on bigger risks. Like hantavirus, shark attack, injury from falling fruit, alien abduction, stuff like that.

                          1. re: alanbarnes
                            Pollo Jan 7, 2008 05:38 PM

                            That's not the point that no one got sick....the company was lucky. Point I'm making is that it does happen more often than people think. That "outbreak" will cost the company upwards of $20 mil if they are lucky and nothing more develops. Based on what I know about the food industy I worry more about bot an other "usual suspects" than any of the "real" treats you mention....

      2. Cheese Boy Jan 4, 2008 09:43 PM

        Packed in *oil*, tuna has a longer shelf life than tuna packed in water (vegetable stock). I'd call the product manufacturer just to make sure. I did so recently for Hunt's diced tomatoes.
        I was told they had no idea what the codes meant from the lids of my cans (apparently they switched over to a new coding system of some kind). That surprised me a bit because I expected them to keep a history of such information.

        Anyhow, my guess is that the tuna will still be good even after three years.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Cheese Boy
          Pollo Jan 6, 2008 08:42 PM

          Wheather tuna is packed in oil or broth/water makes no difference on shelf life. Basically, such cans can be stable for 15+ years or even longer as long as the double seams hold. Anything high acid packed in cans such as sardines with tomato sauce is usually suspect after 3 years...acid will eat through the can coating and then things "happen".....

        2. a
          ariellasdaddy Jan 5, 2008 07:36 PM

          Opened an old can of sauerkraut recently. Stunk up the whole kitchen.

          1. t
            Tay Jan 5, 2008 07:39 PM

            Just check the expiration date... :-}

            1. m
              MikeG Jan 6, 2008 03:02 AM

              For what it's worth, when I've seen dates on tuna, they were * really * long. Like 10 years. Kinda freaked me out, actually, especially when I think/assume it's got to have some kind of margin for error worked into the calculation.

              2 Replies
              1. re: MikeG
                Tay Jan 7, 2008 09:16 AM

                I'm not saying you haven't but honestly, I've never seen a can of tuna with a 10 yr expiration date. 2-3 yr? Absolutely... 10 yrs?..Not as far as I can recall.

                1. re: Tay
                  MikeG Jan 7, 2008 04:10 PM

                  If it hadn't struck me a so bizarre, I'd be willing to concede mis-memory, but...

                  Anyway, among what I have at home right now, the consensus among the dated cans does generally jibe with deepster's noted 5 years, though a jarred Spanish import says 2013 and got lost in the back of a cabinet for quite a while already; a couple of cans of canned salmon are dated 5 years from now and I now I've had at least one of them for an embarassingly long time already.

              2. d
                Deepster Jan 7, 2008 01:37 PM

                Generally 5 years for tuna....here's a chart and some "deciphering info" you might find useful


                1. s
                  smartie Jan 7, 2008 01:50 PM

                  for the cost of replacing cans and if you really think they are pretty ancient, why not just chuck them out?

                  1. o
                    OrisaOko Feb 18, 2009 07:33 PM

                    From the StarKist tuna website, they give 3 years for their cans of tuna, I assume it is typical: http://www.starkist.com/template.asp?...

                    Q. What is the shelf-life of StarKist® canned tuna and flavor fresh pouches?
                    A. All unopened StarKist® products have a recommended shelf life of up to three years, provided the product has been stored under normal conditions and the can or pouch appears normal and is not damaged....

                    PS-I googled "shelf life of canned tuna" and this was the first thing that came up, and I didn't get a clear answer. That is why I made an account on this site and I will never come back because all of these people tried to poison you.

                    1. kchurchill5 Feb 18, 2009 07:35 PM

                      Rule of thumb in my kitchen 1 year and thrown out. But normally it is used.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: kchurchill5
                        Passadumkeg Feb 18, 2009 08:31 PM

                        We've been eating canned chicken and tuna in water from the '80's from Nana's bunker "stash".

                        1. re: Passadumkeg
                          Soop Feb 19, 2009 02:10 AM

                          I heard a story about a couple that ate a 50 year old canned turkey.

                          Sorry, it was a chicken; http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/02/...

                          1. re: Passadumkeg
                            kchurchill5 Feb 19, 2009 05:44 AM

                            Probably true, just rule of thumb 1 year, I'm sure. Besides I usually never end up with anything left more than 1 year. Just me.

                        2. Soop Feb 19, 2009 06:48 AM

                          Just as an aside, if I buy something it's because I intend to use it. Consequently, my cupboard is filled with things like oils, vinegars, flours, sugar baking stuff, and 3 spices (cayanne pepper, chile flakes and chile powder!) oh and garlic. And some cereal.

                          My girlfriend however, is the exact opposite.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Soop
                            kchurchill5 Feb 19, 2009 07:01 AM

                            Like you, I normally use it pretty quick, but ... I'm sure there is something in there, but normally I use it. Space issue. And I cook too much :)

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