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Old Canned Foods- moved from Home Cooking board

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I have acquired a "forgotten" collection of canned food - fruits, vegetables, soups that are not marked with a "best by" date. Some may be years old, and some may be more recent - months to a year or two. I have discarded any that were bulging. I know that many of the cans have code numbers that I could investigate, but there are too many of them to try and track down. Are there any knowledgable opinions out there as to whether, if they are not bulging, the contents would be safe to eat? Another factor is that some may have been stored in a garage, subject to variations in temperature. Would that affect the contents as well?

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  1. It is my understanding that only pharmaceuticals and baby food have real expiration dates as required by the FDA.

    Everything else has a "best by" date (the argument that the quality may diminish over time).


    1. I've always been told that if the can is in tact, the food inside is fine to eat. I saw a report somewhere that opened up a can from the '50s and analyzed it - it was fine! In reality, I'd probably hesitate to eat anything more than 2-3 years old.

      1. Me, if it is 1-2 years old, I toss. But that is just me. If the can is fine I have heard it is ok but, who knows. I don't eat anything that old.

        1. If they're intact, not bulging, leaking, etc. they should be "safe". Whether the appearance, taste and/or texture are acceptable after X years, on the other hand, is a different story...

            1. Yes, be wary of cans that have a visible dent anywhere on them. This is believed to enable/spread botulism throughout the food.


              1. We had a family vacation cabin and about five years ago bit the (financial) bullet and drew up plans, etc. to double the size and bring it up to date. (It was built in the '60s as a summertime place.) In cleaning out the cabinets I came across cans of tuna that were so old they didn't have the nutritional information on the back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Those went in the trash. I had to draw the line there. There were also some canned jalapenos where the acid in the can had eaten through the can. Otherwise I kept everything and haven't died yet. But I will add that even in the summer, the temp in the cabin has probably never reached 70 which I think is a factor in my decision to keep more than some people might.

                1 Reply
                1. re: c oliver

                  Good point, down in FL we use air a lot, but I am not big on air so many times my house is warm. I throw out stuff probably perfectly good but I just can't keep it.

                  Lower temps have a big role I think.