Using Expired Canned Food

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Many consumers wonder if it is safe to eat canned foods that have passed the expiration date on the can. This is a page about using expired canned food.


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July 28, 2009

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 Cindy from Mississippi


July 28, 20090 found this helpful
Best Answer

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.

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March 30, 20110 found this helpful
Best Answer

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

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December 7, 2016

This is a page about using an old can of baked beans. If you have ever found an expired can of food at the back of the cupboard, you have probably wondered about the safety of eating the contents.

A open can of baked beans with a fork.

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

July 28, 2009

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


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 me

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

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

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 (03/26/2007)

By Deanj

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 Debbie Dzurilla

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

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

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 Marty

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 Michawn

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 susan

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

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 Warren D. Lockaby

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)

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.

By Steve

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