One worry with stocking a prepper pantry far in advance is the expiration date on the foods. How long will the foods really last? Metal canned goods purchased from the store have a listed “sell-by” or “use-by” date. For the most part, these dates are conservative and most canned goods will last several months, or even years, beyond the sell-by date.
One of the main risks of consuming expired canned foods is the threat of botulism. Botulism is a paralyzing bacterium that can travel easily through food that has not been properly prepared or stored. Damaged cans can also absorb botulism spores. Since the spores are invisible and undetectable, it is important to watch for the signs of contamination in other ways.
Easy Ways to Extend the Shelf Life of Your Metal Canned Goods
If you store a lot of canned goods, you will increase your chances of acquiring a collection of expired cans. You can extend the usable life of these cans by practicing two storage rules:
- Store your cans indoors in a room that is constantly between 50 and 70 degrees. Extreme temperature changes increases the risk of spoilage and botulism. You can do this by getting an indoor thermometer. This is the one that I use. (Amazon)
- Practice the first-in first-out rule. When you purchase new cans, store them in the back of your shelving unit, and move cans with closer expiration dates toward the front. Since we’re limited to space in the kitchen, we picked up this shelving unit on Amazon that gives us easy access to the back and front.
How Long Will Canned Goods Last?
Typically, there is no set date for the life of a canned good. Theoretically, if the can was packaged correctly and is undamaged, it should have an almost indefinite shelf life. However, if you do not want to risk food-borne illnesses from spoiled canned goods, you will probably want to establish your own safe guidelines for consuming expired canned foods.
Acidic canned goods will expire before non-acidic cans. High acidic foods, like tomatoes,
fruit, and anything with a vinegar base, should last at least two years beyond the expiration date. Low-acidic foods, like potatoes, carrots, peas, pumpkin, and meat, will likely last five years or more beyond the expiration date.
How to Check a Can for Signs of Spoilage
Check your expired cans at two stages- before opening and after opening. Before opening, look for:
- Broken seals
- Bulging sides or top (push to see if it moves and pops up)
- Signs of rust or corrosion
- Leaking food
If your cans show none of the above signs, look for these signs of spoilage after opening the can:
- Small bubbles in the liquid
- Strange odor
- Mushy or cloudy foods
- Exploding or spurting contents after breaking the can’s seal
If your cans show any of the above signs do not consume the contents.
Canned Food Safety
Canned goods safety is not difficult. Follow the steps outlined above, and if you are ever unsure about the safety of any food, use the “when it doubt, throw it out” rule for maximum safety. When you follow these rules, you won’t have to worry so much about the written expiration dates.
How long do you keep foods past their expiration dates?