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Old 06-04-2011, 13:22   #1
tslex
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Canned food REAL shelf life question

Sorting out the hurricane closet is an annual ritual. Goal is to have enough food to comfortable ride two weeks, but also to have it moveable, so mostly it's cans in bins.

We probably don't do the greatest job at rotating stock, b/c day to day we eat mostly fresh foods.

Doing a major re-sort and re-org this year and notice that many cans show mid-2010 or even mid-2009 "best if used by dates." If manufacturers would just put "Canned on" date, I'd count five years and be done with it. But no such luck.

So thoughts on how long a can of soup or SPAM or hash or tuna or pineapple slices etc etc really is good for?
All cans in good condition, stored at room temp (75-ish).

We'll replace it all eventually -- local food bank takes anything at all and uses it if can, tosses if it can't. I just can't afford to find out when I open it if a can is good to go.
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Old 06-04-2011, 13:55   #2
JC Refuge
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Most canned foods, if stored in cool temps, away from sunlight (temperature variations or heat can play havoc with the food), will be good for several years. (Five years is probably max for most grocery-bought wet-pack cans, though there will be exceptions.)

Unfortunately, there isn't an ironclad rule of thumb you can apply, as some canned foods--especially highly-acidic foods like tomatoes and their sauces and yes, pineapples, will go bad. Two years for those types of wet-packed canned foods would be maximum.

One thing to look for in any type of canned food storage is cans that look to be expanded. Throw them away without even opening. Botulism is nothing to mess with. Rusted cans or any can that looks to be leaking--trash them.

Otherwise, you do need to practice some kind of rotation--even if only swapping out your grocery canned foods every couple of years (assuming they haven't been exposed to high heat or frozen, in which case more frequent rotation would be called for).

You're right that you do not want to be having to cross your fingers that your stored food will be OK when you really do need to count on it after some emergency.

Hence, the huge popularity these days in canned foods that are specifically produced and canned for long-term storage--wet-pack meats, canned powdered milk, dehydrated fruits, veggies, and other staples, and freeze-dried entrees. They are going to be good for decades in most cases (again--good storage practices are recommended). And as for portability of those foods--at least the dried foods--they are going to be far more lightweight and easy to move around.

Also, there are many dried foods in pouches that have shelf lives of 5-7 years. Those are increasingly popular and used not only for camping, but for emergency food storage.

My professional perspective--It's a fact that more and more folks are into preparedness these days who are not wanting to bother with rotation. So they are purchasing long-term food storage products. In fact over the last year, consumer demand for those foods has swamped and even totally shut-down major producers of these foods. The economy, major natural disasters in the news, and rumors of war are just a few of the scenarios that cause people to seriously get into food storage today.

It's common sense. And its also about peace of mind. Whatever works for you in your situation--more power to you! Of course most folks by now are aware that to rely on the government to show up and rescue you and provide for your needs, well--that's a tear-jerker waiting to be written. Avoid that ending at all costs.
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Old 06-04-2011, 15:05   #3
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Thanks. Great information.

Down here we say that hurricane preparedness is a lifestyle.

And while there's no such thing as the maturation of odds, so it doesn't make rational sense to say "we're due." Um, we're due. Three VERY easy summers in a row. That can't last.
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