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Storing canned food

Metal can of tomatoes.

There are limits to how long food quality can be preserved

Why? Several factors limit the shelf-life of canned foods.

  • Cans or metal lids on glass jars can rust. When rust is deep enough, tiny holes open in the can or lid that may let spoilage agents in. Shipping accidents that dent or crush cans cause problems.
  • Can corrosion. Food reacts chemically with the metal container, especially high-acid food like canned tomatoes and fruit juices. Over several years, this causes taste and texture changes. It eventually lowers the nutritional value of the food.
  • Temperatures over 100 degrees F are harmful to canned foods. The risk of spoilage jumps sharply as storage temperatures rise. At prolonged storage temperatures above 75 F, nutrient loss in canned foods increases. Light can cause color changes and nutrient losses in foods canned in glass jars.

To store canned food wisely, follow these guidelines

  • Store in a cool, clean, dry place where temperatures are below 85 F (between 50-70 F is good) but not freezing temperatures.
  • Rotate foods so the oldest is used first. Try not to keep canned foods more than 1 year.
  • Use canned meats and seafood within 3 years of the date on the package.
  • Use low-acid canned foods like vegetables and soup within 3 years of the date on the package.
  • Use high-acid foods like fruit, pickles and tomatoes within 2 years of the date on the package.
  • Canned fruit juices can be stored up to 1 year.
  • Foods stored longer will be safe to eat if the cans do not show signs of spoilage or damage, but the foods may deteriorate in color, flavor and nutritional value.

Never use foods from containers with these spoilage warning signs:

  • Loose or bulging lids on jars.
  • Bulging, leaking or badly dented cans (especially along the top, side and bottom seams).
  • Foul odor.

For more information, call AnswerLine at 800-854-1678.


Jan Rasmussen and Suzanne Driessen, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2018

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