Shelf life of canned goods?

Just how long can I wait before opening the cans of Spaghettios and Raviolios I bought just in case the Y2K bug destroyed our food delivery system without getting some dread intestinal disease? Not to mention the gallon of Publix sping water that has been sitting under my sink.


The general rule of thumb is that canned goods have a shelf life of at least two years from the date of purchase. It is recommended that all canned foods be stored in moderate temperatures (75° F and below).

You could always rotate your stock, every so often buy some replacements for the emergency supply and put them in, removing the older ones and using them.

The cans have an expiration date stamped on them. They also probably have a toll-free number you can call for a specific product. Whatever you do, don’t compare the prices on the old cans to new cans. That will make you sick.

Sorry, I can’t dig up a cite at present, but I seem to remember that the canned food that was taken on an Arctic expedition was found to be still perfectly edible when opened 50 or so years later.

To all intents and purposes, most canned food is sterile - it is her metically sealed and heated to a high enough temperature to kill all the nasties. So don’t worry about bacterial contamination making you sick. Sure, after several years the food may degrade slightly in terms of texture, flavour, etc (although it shouldn’t do too much if vacuum packed) but it should be perfectly safe.

Assuming you bought this stuff in 1999, it should be fine for a while. Hell, we’re still eating jam my gran made in the late 1980s, which has been sealed since then and is still fine.

Restaurant Standards typically recommend no more than one year:


Unopened canned foods can be stored at 21°-24°C (70°-75°F) for at least 12 months.

Many canned foods will keep longer but because of uncertainty as to the true age of the food a 12-month maximum should be set.

Canned rhubarb, fruit juices, soft drinks and some baby foods are exceptions and have a maximum storage life of about six months."

Oh dear. The family has some cans of spagetti stilling above the stove as part of an emergency survival kit. For fifteen years.

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