Expiry dates are not something new. You must have come across different foods in stores with varied shelf life, and canned foods are not an exception. Some manufacturers may use sell-by, expiry date, or best before, which tends to confuse consumers. Nevertheless, the shelf life of these products helps buyers to determine the quantity of purchase depending on their frequency of use. But at times you may do your math wrong.
So you end up buying more than you need in a bid to save money. Then the reality hits you when you open your pantry and find out that some of the products have gone wrong the moment you badly need to use them? And there you are, puzzling whether to use or not. Does this sound familiar to you? Then don’t go anywhere as we are going to lift the veil and uncover all the canned food expiry date mystery.
But before then, let’s have an overview of how the canning process is done.
How the canning process is done
Canning is not something new. The innovation dates back in the 18th century. For years now, manufacturers have relied upon this method to preserve different foods for long without adding any preservatives.
Typically, the process involves heating the processed food under high heat to kill bacteria and micro-organism. The cans are sealed under high pressure and then heated under steam pressure. The time may vary depending on the type of food being canned.
Most consumers lack enough knowledge of how food is processed and canned. This has brought some misconceptions around canned food and their safety. Keep reading to understand the food chemistry surrounding canned foods.
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How is the expiry date of canned foods determined?
Manufacturers do not have the right to determine the expiry date for canned foods. Only the FDA can determine the expiry date of foods after examining its quality, nutritional quality, and packaging standards. Before then, specific tests have to be done to determine whether consumer quality standards are met.
But in most cases, canned foods will have a shelf life of 1 to 4 years. This can be doubled from 3 up to 6 years. The essence of having expiry dates on canned foods is basically to give suppliers and consumers an idea of how long the food will retain its quality. Expiry date also gives stores a better way of managing their stocks by ensuring the products are arranged in regards to their shelf life.
However, while canned foods have a longer shelf life, there are factors which determine their expiry date. And among them include:
Though canned food may have a longer shelf life, the way you store them matters. High temperatures encourage bacterial growth. So the more you subject your product to heat the lower the shelf life. For opened cans, bacteria may even grow inside, making the food contaminated over time.
The way canned foods are transported matters a lot and can massively impact the shelf life of the food. For instance, if the cans are handled poorly during transportation and by any case, they get damaged or broken. This can create small invisible holes that may go unnoticed. With time, bacteria will grow inside affecting its shelf life.
How to extend your canned food shelf life
Most people have misconceptions about canned food shelf life and do not think beyond their expiry dates. While the manufacturer may put a sell-by time for the product, the shelf life can be extended by storing the product under the right conditions.
Studies have indicated that the shelf life of canned food can be doubled by storing them in a freezer. But if you do not have one, you can still extend it by storing the can in a dry, cool place away from light and heat. So that means your pantry shouldn’t be the first storage option for your canned food. This is because temperatures inside your pantry keep on changing, which will eventually lower your food shelf life.
Why you should you look beyond expiry date?
Most people find themselves stranded when they come across products in the cupboards that have overstayed or expired. Some even go to the extent of tossing them. But in the real sense, these products are not bad as we think.
The expiry date simply indicates the duration at which the food can supply high-quality nutrients. So that implies that the nutritional content of the food will be low past the stamped date, but it is still fit for human consumption. Canned food which has expired can last up to 1 year or 2 depending on the storage conditions.
However, before you consume the food, there are some things you need to confirm if it’s okay by doing the following.
Check the color
When canned food goes bad, the color will start changing. You may notice moldy or strange appearance. In case any different color is noted aside from the one you are used to, then the food is not fit for consumption.
Aside from color, you can also smell it. If you notice a strange odor which is not pleasing to the nose other than the normal product smell then, it’s time to bin your food. Also, note that both smelling and color observation should be done when the can is open.
Other signs of spoiled canned food include
- A can with corroded parts
- Bubbling, indicated by small gas or bubble moving upwards in the jar when the can is opened
- Gushing liquid when the can is opened
- Broken seal or bulging can
- A liquid that oozes under the can
What you can do with your expired canned food
- Donate to food banks
- Compost them
- Empty and recycle the cans
- Bin them
Expired canned food is not bad for human consumption. Contamination is what causes health complications. So next time before you toss those expired cans, make sure you have tasted, smelled and even checked if indeed they are spoiled.