While we might not think twice about eating expired dairy or meat products, the same can’t be said for canned goods. After all, these items are sealed and typically have a much longer shelf life. However, how can you be sure that they are safe? We will explore this question in this article.

How long can canned foods be safely stored?

Canned foods are safe as long as they are stored safely. This is typically room temperature. Exposure to high temperatures can cause bacteria spores to become activated. Mechanical damage due to falls during storage can create pin holes in the cans, allowing bacteria to enter and grow.

What are the signs that a can of food has gone bad?

One of the most obvious signs that the canned food may be unsafe is evidence of bulging or dent. Bulging is an evidence of bacteria activity resulting in gas production in the can. If the can is dented, microscopic holes, called pinholes may be present. These are entry points for bacteria. Dents at the seams are particularly concerning since that it means that the product may no longer be providing a perfect hermetic seal. If you see these signs, it is best to err on the side of caution and throw the can out.

What are the risks of eating expired canned food?

One of the biggest risks associated with unwholesome canned foods is infection with Clostridium botulinum. This is an anaerobic, temperature-resistant bacteria that produces one of the most dangerous toxins known to man. Infection symptoms include muscle weakness, double and blurry vision, slurred speech, and difficulty swallowing and breathing. In more serious cases it can cause paralysis and death.

Is it safe to eat expired canned food if it has been stored properly?

The answer is yes, it is safe to eat expired canned foods if they have been stored properly. However, if the food has been stored in an area that is too warm or humid, it may not be safe to eat. Also, if the can is bulging, damaged, or leaking, the food inside may not be safe to eat.

How can you tell if canned food has been properly stored?

If you’re not sure whether canned food has been properly stored, look for signs of bulging and dents. If you see any of these, it’s best to throw it out. You may also give the can a smell test. If it smells bad, it’s probably not safe to eat.

Is it legal to sell expired canned foods?

Selling expired foods in the United States is legal. Federal regulations require however that the food being sold be wholesome. That means, it must be safe to eat. Generally consumers use expiry date as an indication of wholesomeness. However, it is merely an indication of organoleptic quality or freshness in terms of taste, flavor, smell, and appearance. Products may be spoiled long before their expiry dates if they are not stored properly. They may also be wholesome long after their expiry dates, depending on the product. Canned foods are among those that may be safe long after the expiry date is passed.


If you’re wondering whether it’s safe to eat expired canned foods, the answer is yes, in most cases. Canned foods are designed to be shelf-stable for long periods of time, and as long as the can isn’t damaged, the food inside should still be safe to eat. However, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. When in doubt, throw it out!

Courtney Simons
Courtney Simons is a food science professor. He holds a BS degree in food science and a Ph.D. in cereal science from North Dakota State University. He also holds Masters degrees in both Environmental Science and Instructional Design from Wright State University.
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