Canned Food past use by date

OldHippieMommaOctober 13, 2012

Hi - I wasn't sure where this topic fit so I decided to post it here. I have been reorganizing my storeroom/pantry and in the process found some store-bought canned goods past their use by date. It's just a few cans of condensed soup, some cans of beans and a few cans of sweetened condensed milk. The use by date was about 2 years ago.

Would the contents still be ok? I don't eat canned soup anymore but I wouldn't want to give it away and then find out it was bad. My overall thought is to dump it all into my compost but I don't want to waste food if it's still edible.

Thanks, OHM

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You can check "Still Tasty" for more information. (see link below)

As a food storage advocate, it also depends on the food storage temperature. Room temperature is considered 70-degrees F. and most food storage charts are based on that temperature. Food will store longer the cooler the storage temperature and optimum storage would be between 40-60 degrees. For temperatures over 70-degrees F, the food will degrade faster, and taste and textures may change.

High-acid foods are the exception, and have a shorter shelf-life than low-acid foods.


Here is a link that might be useful: Still Tasty

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 4:22PM
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Hi OHM & welcome to the Cooking Forum!

Obviously, the first rule is "If In Doubt, Throw It Out".

That said, assuming there are NO buldges, rust, and/or dents then the canned goods should probably be okay. By "okay", I mean not spoiled. However, their quality may be compromised from what it would have been if eaten before the "Use By" date stamped on the can.

I would toss the sweetened condensed milk. I doubt it's spoiled but it gets funky after awhile. Not much lost cost.

If you're going to keep those canned goods - I'd recommend using them soon. My food pantry does not accept canned goods past their expiration dates. Hmmm, maybe the compost doesn't sound like a bad idea, huh?


    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 4:24PM
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Thanks, Grainlady and Triciae! I think it's headed for the compost bin :) It's good to know that temperature makes a difference. My pantry is in the basement and stays about 60 degrees w/ 30-40% humidity year round. So, I don't have to worry about using things up quite as fast as I thought.

I've been working on building up some supplies in case of any disruption to the food supply and I've also started doing some canning. I live in an area that can sometimes get cut off during the winter. A few years ago nothing came in or out of the valley for almost a week (right before Christmas - and of course this meant no mail, either!).

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 6:13PM
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Building up some food storage is a good idea. Both grainlady and I keep 1-3 years food storage. Learning what to store, how to store, and being careful about rotation are part of the learning curve.

Have a great weekend.


    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 6:37PM
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^Rotation is the key. When my mother in law was packing up to move from the farm into a house in the city, she found nineteen cans of cherry pie filling at the back of one of her cupboards! Being a thrifty farm wife, she never wasted a thing, so I imagine those cans were used up in some way or another.

Definitely toss out anything that is bulging or really old. And check the codes on the cans or packages, sometimes it's not stamped with an obvious date so you need to find out what the codes mean. Use common sense, some people throw items away that expired me, that's a waste.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 7:19PM
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Dates on food items are usually "best by" dates, not "use by" dates. Just because it's a day past, doesn't make it bad. Two years, though? As has been mentioned, if the cans aren't bulging, dented, rusty, etc., there is an overwhelming chance that it's still perfectly safe to eat.

Is it worth eating? Now that's a different matter altogether, as quality begins to decline and gets worse the longer the food is kept.

Canned condensed soup will probably last forever, it has so many chemicals in it I can't imagine it would spoil. However, since it's not great when it's "fresh", I can't imagine it'll get any better. Condensed milk turns brown when it gets too old and it's ugly.

Rotation IS key to food storage, even on a small scale. When Dad died 4 years ago I found a jar of homecanned mincemeat on the pantry shelf dated 1984! It was probably still safe to eat but I can't imagine what the quality of THAT was. My mother also had some homemade jam that was at least 20 years old. It was sweet and brown, not any definable flavor or odor, and the Orioles loved it.

So, if it's a few cans and you don't use the stuff regularly, I'd toss it.


    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 10:51PM
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Yes, it all went into the compost. None of it smelled bad but I don't think any of would have tasted all that good.

I try to make most meals from scratch and I have found that since I've been doing that, most prepared food doesn't taste good (especially canned soup). It's just my husband and me at home now and we're both retired. When the kids were growing up and I worked full time I didn't like cooking so we ate a lot of packaged food (and fast food). These days I enjoy cooking all kinds of things (much to my husband's delight). I started a vegetable garden last year and have a lot of fruit trees, so I am also getting into canning, freezing and dehydrating, too. But, I have a lot to learn about food preserving and storage so I'm glad I found this site.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 12:17AM
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Pitching was a good choice. I agree they probably are ok but the quality would likely be compromised.....what little quality there is to most canned soups.

My downfall is condiments. I love different mustards, hot sauces, chutney,etc. I over buy especially when I am in an ethnic store or in the States.

I have 3 bottles of Pickapeppa sauce in my cupboard and one in my fridge! And you don't want to know how many mustards! Guess I better check out some dates!

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 9:03AM
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Mustard keep practically forever. Even if it's homemade mustard.

Mustard seeds are from the mustard plant, a cruciferous vegetable related to broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.

Because of its antibacterial properties, whole-grain mustard does not require refrigeration; it will not grow mold, mildew or harmful bacteria. Unrefrigerated mustard will lose pungency more quickly, and should be stored in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark place. If stored for a long time, unrefrigerated whole-grain mustard can acquire a bitter taste though.

Whole-grain mustard seeds are a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids as well as calcium, dietary fiber, iron, manganese, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc. It is antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic and has anti-inflammatory properties. And since its pungent tangy taste enhances food so uniquely, it can easily replace fattier condiment options such as mayonnaise, butters and sugary ketchups. I make our mustard from Penzey's brown Canadian seeds and yellow mustard seeds.

So, your mustard is probably still good and good for you also!


    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 11:01AM
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I agree, the mustard is still fine. Funny, I buy mustard from Canada, who is a huge producer of mustard!

My downfall is exotic ingredients I pick up at ethnic markets and then don't like or can't figure out how to use up the amount that I don't use for whatever recipe I have in mind.

Sharon, you gave me some mustard when we visited and I loved it.


    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 12:16PM
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I've had some 'evaporated milk' that was just a couple
of months past it's 'use by' date, and when I opened
it, it was the consistency of jello. And it was stored
in a cool, dry, basement atmosphere. I say: Toss it.
What are you out...$0.59???? Not worth the risk.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 4:27PM
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Have a good supply og canned goods on 2 metal shelving units in my attached garage. Periodically have to reorganize and get things back in their "families".

Dates on cans... don't worry about that much. BUT if a can is even remotely rusty, dented or BULGING... handle like it's a time bo mb! If a can has anything other than a concave lid/bottom... DO NOT attempt to open it to see if it's OK... chances are it'll splatter ALL OVER you and wherever you are!

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 5:02PM
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Chase - my husband loves Pick-a-Peppa - we have several varieties in the fridge and stored in the basement. He also really likes The Pepper Plant original California style hot sauce. We can't get either item locally so we order it by the case. Fortunately, he uses it on so many types of food that I don't have to worry about it getting outdated.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 5:51PM
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Nancy got me hooked on the Pickapeppa sauce. It was for one particular recipe .....and I haven't a clue what!!! Now I use it in BBQ sauces, marinades, even in Salad dressing.

We can't get it here in Canada so every time I'm in the States I load up....gotta stop that for a year our two!

Yes Annie I recall giving you the mustard, I also sent some to FOAS and a few others. That particular brand is one of my favorites. Few people know that Canada is the number one producer of mustard seeds in the world. Heck France even imports them to make their Dijon.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 9:24PM
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