How Long Can You Keep Canned Foods?

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Canned Food: Is it Safe?
Canned Food: Is it Safe? (Image: canned tomatoes image by Cinderella Morff from Fotolia.com)

Expiration Labels Are Quality Indicators

You can store canned goods until the "use by" date expires. Expiration dates exist for a reason. They indicate how fresh and safe the food inside will be when you open the can. As a rule, acidic foods like tomatoes expire more quickly than non-acidic foods such as green beans. For the best quality, use canned goods before the printed expiration date.

Canned Goods Have an Excellent Shelf Life

Canning is a very safe and convenient way to store food. There is no reason to believe canned goods will not be safe to eat for a significant time after their expiration date if kept in a cool, dry location. Examine cans for bulges or dents and discard any with apparent damage. Discoloration of the food itself or a bad odor signals spoilage, and you should not eat the contents.

Bottom Line

Expiration dates exist to protect the consumer from food-borne illness. Always check canning labels and resist the temptation to eat canned goods after the use-by date expires. Rotate your pantry often to avoid storing expired goods, and use common sense to determine food safety.

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