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Expiration Dates on Canned Goods

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Lately I've been shopping at a local dent and bent store. I can't ever find a date on the cans. Someone told me that they take the dates off because they are expired so the customers won't know that. They said that they were told that food is still good long after the expiration date. I've tried to find out if it is legal to take the dates off of the cans.

I've found that 20 states require food to have dates but can't find out which ones are part of the 20. These cans are only 25 to 50 cents cheaper per can. The store has a sign up that says all sales final and I have purchased some things that had to be thrown away.

By Conway from Mississippi

Recent Answers

Here are the recent answer to this question.

By carolle05/11/2013

I have cans if spagetti sauce beat by: oct 10/2012 can I use them?

By Rachelle [16]03/30/2011

There is a site with more information: www.foodreference.com; Information on food safety on canned goods. How to read the codes and what they mean.

By Ramona [3]03/29/2011

When in doubt, throw it out!

By Linda [36]07/30/2009

I don't know about the laws, but I too would NOT shop there if they didn't take the "bad" stuff back. I also make it a habit, if I can't figure out the date that IS on a can (some sort of code), I call the manufacturer right then and there and query the item. Most manufacturers now have recordings that tell you what their "codes" are. I don't know why they can't just put the date up-front! and I always check the dates having found many items out of date at quality stores!

By Heather Krucker [10]07/30/2009

I won't even buy a loaf of bread in the grocery store without an expiration date. I don't think I would shop there anymore; especially if they have a no refund policy for bad food. I don't feel their "savings" are worth the risk.

By Paul07/28/2009

There are no federal laws that I am aware of requiring expiration dates on canned goods, except for infant formula and baby food. Other laws vary by state, usually in regards to dairy and egg products. Some deviled ham companies claim it is safe to eat their products a decade or more after the expiration! Although they also make sure to state that the quality of appearence and flavor are not guaranteed past the date. In the end though, I feel it's best to go with your own common sense. If it smells bad, tastes funny, or has a bulging and dented can, probably wise to leave it alone. We are all ultimately responsible for our own and families safety.

Last week I found a can of deviled ham in my Grandparents basement and ate it. Supposedly it was over fifteen years old. It tasted as good as "fresh" deviled ham-terribly salty.

By Cyinda [214]07/28/2009

Usually these date codes can easily be taken off with either rubbing alcohol or fingernail polish remover. I found this out when I spilled some rubbing alcohol on my can of pop. The ink on the number ran all over my counter top. So it can be done. But would they dare? Well, maybe, if they were greedy & thought they could make an extra buck.

Also, I hate to even mention it, but in my area these types of stores are usually ran by well, lets just say (at the risk of being not-politically correct) people not originally born in America & possibly unaware of the rules. (Or maybe just don't care about them).This does not mean there aren't many amazing new Americans running wonderful businesses here. It's just that these days it seems everyone is trying to make a buck. Some by hurting others. But I believe that most people are true, honest & good!

* I believe it's the law that all can's & packages must have a date code. If you can't find one, show these cans to the owner or manager & tell him you're going to report it to the health department. (whether your are or aren't). This should shake them up & make them think twice if they really are removing them! But first ask him nicely, if he can help you find the date-code. Maybe it's there but you just don't see it? Let's hope so.

By Michele [6]07/28/2009

I don't think laws would allow dated foods to have the dates taken or scratched out.I do know that in my experience in retail, many canned foods are dated, but using a Julienne dating system, which consists of numbers, letters, etc. The time, date, batch, plant # is usually in the date when they use this system. Going online, I'm sure anyone can find a conversion chart or something to help you read Julienne dates.

Archives

Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the feedback that was provided then.

Archive: Expiration Dates on Canned Goods

Sometimes my MIL gets food from food pantries. One recent 'trip' has a can of red peppers from Turkey with the date of 09/02 on it. She and my DH think the can is safe since it is not bulging out. I think quite differently, due to being the daughter of nurses, lol!

I just want to know if it's safe or not.

Theresa from Cleburne, TX


RE: Expiration Dates on Canned Goods

I think it's up to you. Most properly canned food will last for a long time. And the date on the label is accurate to some respect, but the company is also trying to protect themselves. You can try opening it and checking it out, if it smells foul, looks bad, etc., throw it out. It's better to be safe than sorry. (03/24/2007)

By Designersheets

RE: Expiration Dates on Canned Goods

I agree with the previous feedback. Open it and see! I'm guessing the peppers will be fine. I read once about a test where 60-year-old canned vegetables were opened. They were all very edible and there were no safety problems! (03/25/2007)

By Liz

RE: Expiration Dates on Canned Goods

It may very well be fine. But I worked in restaurants for many years, and I tend to err on the side of safety.

My thought is this, "Is it worth it if it isn't safe? Is the money you saved going to be worth getting sick if it is not safe?". (03/26/2007)

By mzclown

RE: Expiration Dates on Canned Goods

Manufacturers suggest 1 to 2 years after the product expiration date.You could always check with the manufacturer, or go to google.com (03/26/2007)

By foxrun41

RE: Expiration Dates on Canned Goods

I had email correspondence with the company Allen's that makes many canned products. I was told that if the can isn't bulging, it's still safe; however if too old it probably won't taste good. The product will still be safe to eat but might not be at its best. I don't know if the date on these peppers was when it was canned or the best by date. If it's when it was canned, I don't think it would be too old.

I agree that you could open it and look at the contents, smell it and take a small taste. Unless the can is damaged, you shouldn't be harmed by what's inside but it might be past its prime as far as taste.

Hope this helps,
Debbie (03/26/2007)

By Debbie52

RE: Expiration Dates on Canned Goods

It could also be 2009/02. If they are from Turkey, there may be different dating standards. (03/26/2007)

By ThriftyFun

RE: Expiration Dates on Canned Goods

Just wanted to add that the experts state that we can't tell if food is contaminated, possibly by botulism toxin, etc., by smelling or tasting it. Many common toxins give no off taste or smell to foods and thrive in the presence of an anaerobic atmosphere (such as in a vacuum-sealed can), so for the price of the can and for peace of mind, I'd just dispose of it - without opening it. Hope this helps. (03/26/2007)

By bd

RE: Expiration Dates on Canned Goods

My motto where food is concerned; When in doubt, throw it out! If the label is correct, that stuff has been expired for over 5 years. There is a reason canned things are dated. I have used products up to three months past their date, but in the case of years, I'd give it a pitch. (03/26/2007)

By duckie43

RE: Expiration Dates on Canned Goods

Ok, ewwww. Regardless of whether or not it's bulging, it's from 2002! That was 5 years ago and some cans of food have a long shelf life as it is, maybe it was from a couple to a few years before that, blech! We aren't on a deserted island eating food from the hatch. (03/26/2007)

By michawnpita

RE: Expiration Dates on Canned Goods

Few countries date things as we do in the US. Most put the year first, followed by the month then day, or the year followed by the day, then month. We even follow this practice in our country when we figure out a person's birth age (year-month-day) for any type of therapy or when we write reference papers (year-day-month).

But put the expiration date aside. Proper canning procedures kill any possible contaminants. Without bulging or leaking, the food is safe to eat. It may not look or taste the best, but will be safe none-the-less.

Why don't you just call the place that distributed the food to your MIL and question the date on the can? I'm sure they can give you more info both on this and in the future to alleviate potential concerns.

Oh yes -- I've returned to school after being out 25 years. Although I worked in the medical field and kept up with information, I was shocked to learn how many things I was once taught as gospel truth that are now obsolete--even though they are still being repeated by physicians and nurses across the country. A medical degree doesn't make anyone an expert. Research is rapidly changing many formerly held ideas. (03/27/2007)

By susanmajp

RE: Expiration Dates on Canned Goods

If the can is dented, toss it as that compromises the contents. I work with our local food pantry and the people that run it have to attend classes to do so. In the US the product is good for FIVE years past the expiration date listed. (03/28/2007)

By Amy

RE: Expiration Dates on Canned Goods

Some very good comments on this. In the US most canned goods are put up in "Keg-lined" cans. That stuff can last a long time. And dang, I didn't know turkeys could lay red peppers (In the last comment I was pulling your turkey leg, but seriously)! I have cans of stuff my mother bought when she was alive and jars of stuff she put up back in the 70's, and if the cans look okay or the jar lids are still good, when I'm hungry, I eat it.

However, I lost my sense of smell some years ago due to a hard blow to the head which severed the nerves to my nose so I try to be as careful as I can be. My favorite comment in this thread is, "When in doubt, throw it out!". I'm sure I've tossed out some good food, but I've had food poisoning before and trust me, you don't want it. Mine was from some bad hot dogs though, not from canned goods, but I thought for sure I was going to die! (04/17/2007)

By Alph

RE: Expiration Dates on Canned Goods

I just want to know how much $$$ I am wasting by throwing out all of these canned goods. Years ago they use to be good forever. Government food never had expiration dates on them. I think this is how we keep the companies so busy, because we are throwing away food that is good for years. What's up with this? I really need to find out some answers. Anybody know? Please feel free to say something about this. (10/20/2007)

RE: Expiration Dates on Canned Goods

When the food is canned initially, any bacteria is killed by the heat and pressure of the canning process which makes that micro world sterile until air is introduced again. A can improperly sealed could be bad before it even arrives at the grocery store, or if properly sealed would be good until the integrity of the can is compromised. Long story short, if the can continues as a sterile environment the food should be good whether its five years or twenty years. (05/23/2008)

By Steve

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