How Long Does Canned Food Last?

Canning food is bliss I believe in, especially for campers. It can help you in so many different ways.

If you have prepared extra sauce or soup, you can can it easily at home with certain food canning standards.

It is also very helpful to store food to be equipped in uncalled for situations or natural calamities.

Almost any kind of food can be canned into proper jars and cans.

With certain necessary and inevitable things to keep in mind, you can make your food last long.

However, it relies heavily on the nature of food, the way it is canned and the temperature it is kept or stored in.

Talking about canned food, one major concern that you might have is, how long does canned food last?

So here, I have listed a few answers to your general questions about canned food.

I will also discuss the ways you can improve the shelf life of your canned food later in this article.

How long does canned food last?

Canned Food

To answer this question most accurately, I will divide the food into two broad categories.

One is High – Acid canned food and the other is Low – Acid Canned Food.

Now, this is quiet evident that low – acid canned food is the one that has a pH value of 4.6 or greater. This excludes tomatoes and alcoholic beverages. High – Acid Canned food has pH less than 4.6 and is acidic in nature.

Low – Acid Canned Food

Low acid canned foods like meat and vegetables can last for up to 3-5 years.

If these are industrially canned with proper standards, then their shelf life is somewhere between 3 to 5 years.

However, in some cases like Salmon, the canned meat can also last up to 6-7 years.

It is critical for the low acid canned food to be followed with proper canning instructions as it has a risk of catching C. Botulinum bacteria.

If you are buying canned food from the market, make sure the can is not bloated, heavily dented or expired. Some cans will also mention a warning stating it might contain C. Botulinum bacteria.

If you are canning food at home, make sure you abide by the standardised procedure for the same to avoid contamination.

Sometimes, in home canned food and also market bought canned food, there might be discolouration in the food after one year or 2-3 years.

It does not mean the food is unsafe to consume, but it might lose the taste a little bit.

Home canned food is safe to have until one year from canning it.

You should pay extra care if using home canned food after one year.

High – Acid Canned Food

High acid canned foods involve citrus fruits, tomatoes, tomato soup and anything canned with vinegar.

It essentially has an acidic nature which protects and prevents from C. Botulinum bacteria to grow.

However, it is still crucial to follow standard operating practices for canning this food at home.

This kind of canned food can last for upto 1 – 1.5 years.

After this, the food can start reacting with the can and contaminate itself.

If you are canning the food at home and using it after one year, use your senses to determine if the food is edible.

Don’t taste and test if it feels inedible. Rather toss the can and buy or make a new one.

If high acid canned foods are not stored in favorable temperatures, they might get stale in less than a year.

Prevent storing them in high temperatures or consume them as soon as possible if the temperature is towards the upper side.

Buying a canned food from the market will give you clear instructions and information for its use and storage.

But when you are canning food at home, make sure you are doing that after getting yourself familiarized with the process.

According to different food, the process is different. Home canned food is very much susceptible to contaminating with C. Botulinum.

Use the broth and brine very carefully while canning home food.

If done in a proper way, you can have canned food stored for you for a long time.

It can save and help you during the times of natural disasters as well.

How to improve the shelf life of canned food?

Shelf Life Canned Food

While canned foods have their set shelf lives, it is crucial to maintain the favorable conditions for them to sustain till that time or more.

On some cans, you will find mentioned that they need to be refrigerated.

At home, you can do that with your refrigerator, but when you are outdoors or on a camp, it becomes very important to follow the standards.

For that, you can carry dry ice that will keep the can under cool conditions. Also, cans should never be kept in damp conditions.

It can cause corrosion in them. The last thing you will want is to store the can for a longer time only to find out it is not usable as it is corroded.

So, while preserving it at home or basement, make sure the place is dry.

On the contrary, canned foods can also not sustain very high temperatures.

If the can is suitable to be stored at room temperature, make sure the temperature does not go extremely high.

Avoid putting the can in direct sunlight. Always remember, not every canned food has to be preserved with refrigeration.

Read the instructions carefully on the can or read the procedure thoroughly before canning at home.

How to identify if the canned food is spoilt?

Making use of your senses is the best way to determine if your canned food is still safe to consume.

If you are in the market to buy canned food, then also see for all the below points before making a purchase.

Rest assured the can is not contaminated from any angle as canned foods have a greater risk of Botulism or food poisoning.

Is Canned Food Spoilt


  • Look at the can, if it appears bloated, don’t buy.
  • If it has a deep dent, then also there are chances that the dent might let bacteria inside.
  • If you have stored the can and you find it dented or bloated, better is to toss it.


  • While opening the can, if there is a hissing sound, which is something unusual, then there is something to worry about.
  • Also, when you open, if the liquid spurts, it is stale and contaminated.
  • Discard the can then and there.
  • If all this is not there, look for any mold formation on the surface.
  • If that is there, there are chances, bacteria is growing.


  • Smell the can and in a case of any foul odor, you will find out the can is no more edible.
  • If you don’t find any significant smell, but you see discolouration, one possibility can be oxidation of food which is not harmful to consume.


  • Last is to taste it.
  • Please note, if you do not find any significant signs that I have mentioned earlier, then only proceed towards this test.
  • If you find the above signs, kindly refrain from tasting the food and harming your health. When you taste and find some minor change in the taste but not very bad, boil or heat it for 10-20 minutes and use.
  • If that tastes bad, needles to mention, discard it safely. Make sure not to throw it in the dustbin or somewhere outside. It should be unapproachable to animals as well.

Can canned food be used after expiration date?

There are many times you forget to use the food before or within the expiry date.

So if you are out in a camp or if it is an emergency situation, then you can think of testing the canned food for consumption.

If the expiry date is one year, it does not mean, from the very next day the food will be stale. It remains good immediately after the expiry date as well.

So, if you have just bounced over the expiry date, look for the above methods and identify if your can of food is still good to be consumed.

If you don’t have the urgency, I believe you should stick to the expiry date and get new canned food for yourself.

Is canned food good for health?

Particularly, in canned foods, there is a deterioration of Vitamin C that is observed.

Canned food is very much prone to oxidation after a certain point which can not be stopped.

So if you are considering canned food on a daily basis, it is not nutritive. But, if this is a question of survival or going on an outdoor camp, yes, you can gain good nutrients from this.

Nonetheless, there is a major risk of Botulism in canned food.

Specifically home canned foods.

If the food canned at home is not taken through temperature variations and other essential steps, C. Botulinum can easily find a place.

It can cause severe food poisoning. C.

Botulinum is a bacteria that requires high temperatures to get eliminated.

Even higher temperatures for its spores to get destroyed.

You have to be very cautious and attentive while using any canned food.

What is the best-canned food for campers?

If you are a camper and looking out to packing survival food, be sure you keep in mind certain points.

First, decide and calculate the approximate time duration of your outdoors.

Depending upon that, you choose whether to go for canned foods that last for more than one year or no.

Best is to pack food that is light weight and in smaller quantities.

Once you open the can, you should be able to consume the whole thing as after opening; it will be a little difficult to store it again and preserve.

In case you are canning food at home, try to make small cans which are more like wholesome meals to you.

Balance some nutrients in your food.

You should have sufficient vitamins and proteins to keep your body healthy and immune.

Also, for the foods that you want to cook while on the camp, select such foods that are easy and quick to cook.

For example, you won’t want to cook brown rice on a camp for half an hour. Better is to get cooked and canned brown rice.

One very good source of nutrients and energy that also lasts long is canned, Salmon.

It is enriched with Omega 3 fatty acids and can provide you with sufficient proteins along with energy.

Some, in this category, can also be eaten without cooking. Just make sure you don’t have the left overs. It will be hard to preserve them while not having a refrigerator.

Other things like canned Bacon, canned Hamburger, etc., are also great options to go ahead with.

All of these are easy to carry and very high energy contents. One major thing you want to a camp is calories to keep you up and going.

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 1 comments
James Bergman - August 23, 2016

I have definitely eaten from cans that have passed their expiration date. I am just much more careful about checking the cans. As long as they are sealed correctly then I don’t normally have to worry. However, you are probably right that it is best not to take the risk if you don’t have to.


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