How Long Does Canned Food Last? Here's What You Need to Know


September 20, 2022

Canned goods can actually last well beyond their printed "expiration" date.


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On those days when you just can’t make it to the grocery store, having a stock of canned goods at home can be a lifesaver. After all, these non-perishable foods are not only affordable and a breeze to cook with, but they have a long shelf life — a fact that makes them a must-have for every household in case of an emergency or at least to hold you over until your next shopping trip. If you dig deep into the recesses of your pantry, most likely you’ll discover that you already own a few old cans of soup or green beans that you bought from who knows when, leading you to wonder: Just how long does canned food last, and is it really safe to eat canned food past the expiration date printed on the can?


The truth is pretty surprising — and will definitely take the pressure off of having to consume and replace all your backup food within a year or two. According to the USDA, canned goods will last indefinitely if they are kept in good condition. Though, that’s no guarantee that the food’s texture and taste will be the same as when you first bought it years past the expiration date. There are several factors that diminish the shelf life of canned food, but generally you can feel safe following this rule of thumb: Foods that are more acidic will expire sooner, while low-acid canned foods will last for a longer amount of time. If you’re curious how different canned foods stack up, here's a specific breakdown of how long they'll last on the shelf, and even how long they’ll keep in the refrigerator after they have been opened:


Does canned food go bad?

There are several factors that may affect the shelf life of canned foods, such as can corrosion and rusting, high temperatures and other container problems. Over the years, many canned foods will experience taste and texture changes, and may eventually lose their nutritional value — which is why it's recommended to consume different types of canned products by a certain time for the best quality. (Accordingly, the "use-by" or "best-by" dates that are often printed on cans are for quality, not safety.)

So is it safe to eat canned foods past their "expiration" date? While canned goods past their "best-by" date may not taste optimal, there's no real health risk in consuming canned goods as long as they remain in good condition. Just make sure that you never buy bulging, rusted, leaking or dented cans, and that you always store canned goods in a cool, dry place — in fact, the USDA says to never store them in any place exposed to high or low temperatures, or in places such as under the sink, above or beside the stove, or in a damp garage or basement.

And of course, after opening canned foods, make sure to store leftovers and unused portions in the refrigerator; for best preservation of quality and flavor, you should store it in a glass or a plastic storage container.


How long does canned food last?

Canned Ham

Shelf-stable canned ham (such as Spam) lasts 2 to 5 years on the shelf. After opening, it will generally be good for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.

Low Acid Canned Goods

Low acid canned goods include items such as canned meat and poultry, stews, pasta products, and soups (except for tomato soup), as well as vegetables such as potatoes, corn, carrots, spinach, beans, beets, peas, and pumpkin. These canned goods will last for 2 to 5 years on the shelf after they've been canned, and will last 3 to 4 days if you store it in the refrigerator after opening.

High Acid Canned Goods

High acidic canned goods include juices, tomatoes, and fruit products (such as grapefruit, pineapple, apples, peaches, pears, plums, and all berries), as well as pickles, sauerkraut, and all foods treated with vinegar-based sauces or dressings. These foods are good for 12 to 18 months on the shelf, but after opening, will last 5 to 7 days in the refrigerator.

Home Canned Foods

If you're canning your own foods at home, you should know that these foods will last up to a year on the shelf. Before using, though, remember to boil 10 minutes for high-acid foods and 20 minutes for low-acid foods as a precaution (even if you detect no signs of spoilage). After opening, your home canned foods will last around 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.

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