How long can you safely keep canned food?

Answers from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Commercially prepared canned food has a fairly long shelf life, as long as it's stored properly. How long you can safely keep canned food depends on the type of food. According to the Department of Agriculture:

  • High-acid foods — such as tomatoes, fruit and fruit juice — can be stored for up to 18 months
  • Low-acid foods — such as vegetables and meat — can be stored for two to five years

When you're shopping for canned food, examine the containers. Don't buy canned products that are dented, leaking or bulging, or those that show any signs of tampering.

At home, store canned food in a cool, dry place. Avoid cabinets over the stove, under the sink, or in a damp basement or garage.

When you're preparing canned food, check the expiration date on the label to be assured of freshness. It's also a good idea to clean the top of the container before you open it. If the container spurts liquid or foam when you open it or the food has a foul odor, don't eat it. Simply throw the container and the food away.

Jan. 24, 2009 See more Expert Answers