The Mother Of All Food Storage Myths

Most of us build up our food storage with store bought canned goods, home canned goods, and dehydrated fruits and vegetables. And that is an excellent approach. It would be hard to eat a steady diet of bulk goods like corn, wheat, beans and rice without added flavors and textures. In fact, cooking with just staples can lead to what’s known as “appetite fatigue”, a situation where that same bland meal, eaten day after day, may lead people to choose to go hungry—especially the very young and the elderly. I’ll address appetite fatigue in my next post, but for now, I want to share some good news for those of you who have worried about the relatively short shelf life of canned goods.

For years, we have been told the average store bought can of food has a shelf life of two years, give or take.  If you’re storing foods that you eat, the goal becomes to rotate through the food at a pace that allows you to eat it all before it goes bad.

When we’re busy with hectic every-day lives, it is sometimes difficult to use a first-in-first-out (FIFO) food rotation method. For others, a rotation method, where you consume and replace canned goods before their expiration dates is flat-out impossible.

I could be the poster child for this situation, so I’ll use myself as an example. I have stored food for twenty-three people. These family members do not live at my homestead. How, then, can one person rotate food meant for twenty-three? And what about those who have a bug-out cabin and are only able to visit their property occasionally?

Up until now, most folks invested in relatively pricy dehydrated/freeze dried fruits and vegetables along with bulk goods because it seemed like the only answer. And don’t get me wrong; I believe dehydrated  and freeze dried foods are great for food storage…as long as you can afford it.

We have all heard stories about someone bravely “testing” an old can of food or preserves decades after its advisable date and lived to tell about it. But for most, these stories were viewed more as an urban legend than a reality.

Dale Blumenthal with the Food and Drug Administration wrote an article a few years back that I only just discovered which had interesting facts on a study that was performed in 1974 by the National Food Processors Association. This study was done on 100 year old canned food that was found on the Steamboat Bertrand. It needs to be pointed out the Bertrand had swamped under its heavy load and sank in the Missouri River in 1865. It was later recovered in 30 feet of silt.

The canned goods that were tested from this recovery consisted of oysters, brandied peaches, plum tomatoes, honey and mixed vegetables.  The contents of these 100 year old cans were tested for bacteria and also for their nutrient value.  When tested, it was noted that the food had lost its fresh appearance and fresh smell, but it did not contain microbial growth, and was just as safe to eat 100 years later as it was when it was canned. Vitamins C and A were lost, but the foods still had high levels of protein and they contained all of its calcium and was deemed comparable to todays canned food.

As preppers, we are aware of how important it is to put food safety at the top of our priority list, especially when we can’t expect to get medical attention in the midst of catastrophe.  On the other hand, I have long suspected the two-year sell-by date given by the food industry at the FDA’s insistence had given us a false sense of fear that is in direct conflict with our forefather’s wisdom.

I can tell you I’ve personally been the test-crash dummy for many an outdated can of food. While growing up on an Alaskan homestead, far from the grocer who sold canned goods at double the going rate, my sister, brothers and I were routinely subjected to testing this theory of consuming outdated canned goods and never once suffered ill consequences.

Although I will summarize this incredible report written by Dale Blumenthal, I highly recommend that you go to the following link and see for yourself. It is important when cooking with ANY food storage to know, without a doubt, it is safe to consume.

Included in Dale Blumenthal’s paper, the National Food Processors Association chemists didn’t stop with testing the canned food found on the ship-wrecked Bertrand. They also analyzed a forty year old can of corn from a California basement where it had been stored all those years ago. No contaminants were found, and the nutrient loss was not significant.

In another study, the U.S. Army stated that 46 year old canned meats, vegetables and jam were likewise tested and found safe to eat.

Watch For These Signs!

When storing long-term canned goods, check each can for dents before storing. Any dented cans should go in the kitchen pantry for immediate use, rather than taking chances with long-term food storage.

Before consuming canned goods, always check for these warning signs: cans with bulging tops or bottoms MUST be tossed out. It is an indication that it contains dangerous bacterial growth. A leaking seal found in canned goods should also be tossed out, as this is another indicator that the can may contain harmful bacteria.

***David’s note: It is just as important to store canned goods away from moisture and temperature extremes as it is for bulk storage foods.  Temperature extremes, like what is regularly found in vehicles, garages, and attics can destroy 95% of the nutritional value of food within 5 years, making it possible to starve to death with a full stomach after eating improperly stored food.***

Consumers Fighting Back Over the High Cost of Eating

There is a new wave of consumers that’s worth mentioning. NPR reporter Serri Graslie wrote an article titled Willing To Play The Dating Game With Your Food? Try A Grocery Auction. The article describes that some consumers are purchasing food that has reached, or neared, its sell-by date. Surprisingly, there are no laws on the books with regards to selling food that has reached its shelf life and entrepreneurs have caught on to the need for affordable food and are now selling it at food auctions to the public for much less.  Even if you don’t intend to store food that has neared its sell-by date, it may be worthwhile to investigate it for the kitchen pantry, leaving those saved dollars for long-term food storage.

Here is a quote from Ms. Graslie’s article:

“Every year, U.S. grocers discard $10 billion to $15 billion in unsold products. The items might be damaged, discontinued, seasonal or food that’s just close to its sell-by date.

Some of those products might be sent to a landfill, contributing to the massive food waste problem. Some go to a food bank or even get delivered to shelters, as with this company in Boulder, Colo (the food auction which is described in the article—my words). But increasingly, they might also be resold to the public. Grocery auctions are joining salvage grocery and dollar stores as a popular clearinghouse for food that’s past its prime.”

The article mentions Jonathan Bloom’s book America Wastelend, where he states “I think we’ve lost some of our food knowledge and we’re not sure when something is good or not.”

Although this may be a new trend in lowering the ever-increasing cost of food, should you venture there, it is wise to inspect the cans. Over the years, I’ve heard those who swear by buying damaged or dented cans to cut costs. This is not a good practice as it is possible dented cans may have resulted in a damaged the seal that can lead to illness.

The Sell-By Date of Canned Goods

The FDA insists foods are given a sell-by date for consumer safety. Over time, most manufacturers have arbitrarily given most canned goods a shelf life of 2 years. It is NOT the safety of the foods they are referring to with their sell-by dates , but more of an industry standard and also denotes the time span of canned foods optimal nutrient value. In an emergency situation, although it is best to consume canned goods at their freshest state possible, an item that has passed its given Sell-by date still offers life-sustaining sustenance.

**David’s Note:  Our family eats what we store, but we primarily choose to eat fresh local produce for the majority of our meals instead of eating from our food storage.  The natural result of this is that a lot of our food storage expires on a regular basis.  What we have chosen to do is to support our church’s food bank with food that is not expired, but is within a few months of expiring.  They use the food immediately, well before it “expires”, and we replace it with new food.  It’s not really a big deal for us…instead of giving our church money that they’d use to go out and buy food, we just save them the step and give them food.  Interestingly/sadly, the food that we donate usually tends to be a LOT healthier than the other food in the food bank.

One other thing to keep in mind is that most manufacturers put “2 years” on labels, not so much to protect the consumer, but rather to limit their liability.  That being said, it’s important to understand exactly what kind of liability they fear.  One of their main fears is that you’ll eat an old, spoiled can of food, get botulism and die. (think Botox…but more than just your forehead gets paralysis)  This not incredibly common, but it’s no joke.  So if you’re going to be cavalier about expiration dates, at least be careful about other warning signs.**

Do you fear canned goods that have passed their prime, or are you already convinced an expired  sell-by date is safe to consume?  Share your thoughts by commenting below.  You’ll notice that we completely removed the “Facebook commenting” from the site.  I’m not a big fan of it, and judging by your responses, you aren’t either and would rather have the simple commenting that we had before.

Changing directions somewhat, if you haven’t taken advantage of the Target Focus Training Survival package yet this week, I STRONGLY encourage you to check it out by going here and taking action now.


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  1. My family members all the time say that I am wasting my time here
    at web, except I know I am getting familiarity daily by reading thes
    good posts.

  2. Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say
    that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your weblog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing to
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  3. Stevia mentioned above. Friends even use it in baking. You can get from Ecology Action’s website (upprt right – Bountiful Gardens) where you can order:
    1) Growing and Using Stevia

    Jeffrey Goettemoeller and Karen Lucke, 2005, 49 pp. $10.
    The Sweet Leaf from Garden to Table. Complete instructions for growing, harvesting, and storing stevia plus twenty recipes using green stevia powder or whole leaf. Green stevia has a distinctive taste, so it will not work in just any recipe…the authors have not only grown stevia successfully, but also have spent years perfecting these recipes for drinks, desserts, pies, rolls, custard and more. See our herb section for Stevia seeds.

    Stevia rebaudiana PLANT DESCRIPTION?NEEDS $3.25
    The leaves of this plant can be dried and powdered for use as an herbal sugar substitute…10-16 times sweeter than sugar and without the calories. From South America, it doesn’t like a very hot dry climate, but also can’t take temperatures below about 45°s F. In cold-winter areas, it should be grown as a potted plant that can be taken indoors when the weather changes. Photo by Aardvark-Wikipedia-Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Generic license

    • I have a couple of different stevia “clumps”– and they taste different. One has the “soapy” taste people complain about, the other doesn’t.

      So, I’d suggest that one choose stevia plants in person, and taste a leaf before buying. The fresh leaves will have a “green” taste, but that goes away when dried; the “soapy” taste doesn’t.

  4. Hello David,

    I wanted to comment about the probable/possible food shortages that might be occurring soon … as discussed in your 18 Sep 2012 mailing.

    My son is a farmer, and I help him on weekends. Small garden plots can be very productive. For vegetables, he uses plots that are 25 feet long and 4 ft or 5 ft wide. The width is chosen for planting and harvesting convenience. He uses a system called double digging. Once the soil has been dug and compost or other amendments have been added, the surface is never compacted. In other words, no one steps on it. That’s why the beds are narrow … you just reach in from each side to plant, weed, cultivate, and harvest.

    The double digging refers to the soil loosening technique. The upper one-foot layer is removed with a square-tipped shovel (and the dirt from the first row is set aside on a canvas cloth or other convenient container). Then the lower one-foot layer is dug into and loosened. A garden fork can be used for tough areas that need loosening. Compost or other amendments can be added at this time to the lower layer. Then you step back and dig the upper part of the next row, placing the upper top soil into the trough of the first row, amending as desired. In this manner, the entire bed is dug two feet deep. The upper foot of soil is never mixed with the lower foot of soil because these two layers contain different micro-organisms. At the end of the bed, the first upper row of soil is placed on top of the last lower foot of soil, thus preserving the separation of upper and lower levels without loosing soil.

    The next time you prepare this bed for planting, you need to use a raised plank or some other means to stand and dig without stepping on the bed. Never compact the soil in the bed by stepping on it or by putting heavy items on it. And gain access to the lower layer in the same way as the original digging: save the first upper row; loosen each lower row and cover with the upper portion of the next row; place the first upper row on top of the last lower row.

    Your readers can consult the Web site of John Jeavons:
    growbiointensive. org/

    My son and I grow everything organically. The farm is certified organic.
    If compost material is saved from the kitchen and various gardening activites, and if compostable material is grown in fallow beds, then compost can be added to the beds as needed to enhance nutrients in the soil. In this manner, nutritious foods can be harvested while maintaining soil fertility.

    Composting is relatively easy. You can put some sticks and other debris on the ground (with or without a surrounding container) and then add 3 items: soil, dry carbon-rich plant material (leaves, stalks, etc.), and green, moist plant material, all in about the same layer thickness (2 to 4 inches works fine). Start with any one of the three and keep rotating the type as you add material. This can be stacked about 3 to 5 feet deep before beginning another pile. You don’t even need to turn the compost pile if you have added material in these 3 types of layers. In the green, moist layer, you can add kitchen materials, such a vegetable trimmings and plate scrapings (after meals).

    The deep digging (2 ft) allows for deep plant roots, and also produces great carrots and other root vegetables. The Grow Biointensive Web site offers a lot of additional information. John Jeavons can provide additional information about the spacing of plants. When properly spaced, and when grown in healthy soil, plants shade the ground and limit weed growth. Healthy plants are much more resistant to insects and diseases than struggling plants.
    Double digging is not hard, and it is a great way to get the most out of your home garden space.
    Best of luck, and thank you for your great contributions to urban survival.
    Ed DeRosier

    • Good overview of Ecology Action method. Uses 67-88% less water and 50-100% less fertilizer. Produces 2x – 6x more food. To say again, main site: growbiointensive .org/ which leads to free on-line videos at johnjeavons .info/video.html Short episodes currently playing:
      • Part 1: Introduction
      • Part 2: Growing Seedlings
      • Part 3: Garden Bed and Soil
      • Part 4: Transplanting
      • Part 5, Part A: Composting
      • Part 5, Part B: Composting
      • Part 6: Harvesting
      • Part 6B: Harvesting
      • Part 7: Saving Seeds
      • Part 8A: Choosing Your Crops
      • Part 8B: Choosing Your Crops
      • Part 9: Maintaining Your Garden

    • It’s not realy correct to describe this technique as the ‘double-digging’ technique – it’s more accurately called the ‘no-dig’ technique because, as you rightly say, the digging is done only once, and thereafter, the soil is never compacted, so never needs to be dug again. By contrast, traditional double-digging means doing this every single season because the beds are constantly walked upon and compacted, almost completely contrary to what Jeavons advocates.

  5. The cans of today are not as thick as they were 50-60 years ago. so they well rust or corrode though quicker. They made the change back in the late 60s – early 70s as they want to save money by getting more cans per ton, also it meant less weight per case made them cheaper to ship.
    Now they mess with the can size to raise the price without changing the price per can, and it then mess up recipes that call for one of this or that.

  6. There is an app for Droids that is helpful for preppers. It is Prepper Plan-it. Don’t know it is available for iPhones. It allows you to define storage locations, categories, and items. You can also input quantities in stock and reorder levels. There is no transferring to computers. Not exactly on the topic, but close to it.

  7. I went thru my ‘backup’ pantry the other day, and out all the cans with dates about tobe expired and already were expired in the kitchen and told my wife that we needed to use these first before getting anything else from the pantry. One can of stew had an exp dat of 2011, I had it for dinner and it tasted fine.

    • When I bring in foods for long-term storage, I use a permanent black marking pen and write the “use by date” in large letters where it can easily be seen. And, just for fun, I often write how much I paid for the item and the date to compare in months and years to come.
      I think you have to use common sense about the “dates”…for example, I have dry powdered milk that I will probably ignore the expiration dates for obvious reasons.

    • We practice “first in, first out” to keep this from happening.

  8. I haven’t read ALL of the posts so forgive me if this was mentioned.
    Why do pickles, mustard, and ketchup all state that they need to be refrigerated after opening?
    When I was growing up NONE of these went into the refrigerator, pickles were sold out of a barrel or jar kept in the middle of the store or on the check out counter. Mustard and ketchup sat out not only at home but also at the restaurant.
    I do understand that there is a need to be careful with food left out over time but I routenely leave cooked meat and veggies out overnight and consume them them the following day with no ill affects.
    How in the world did our speceis survive before refrigeration or even an ice box?
    That said, I do watch for bulging cans, and try to use items up within the year they are dated for experation.
    I have watched food drives toss out many cans of food that were just past thier date, but that may be for thier protection just as it is for the manufacturer.

    • Survival Diva says:



      In many parts of Europe, cheese is still not refrigerated. Our forefathers knew (and parts of Europe still do) that by coating it with wax, keeping an eye out for cracks, it would last for years. They had to know these things when there wasn’t a fridge around.

      Enter the FDA…

      If anyone wants an interesting read, Google the words BOATERS, FOODS THAT DO NOT NEED REFRIGERATION. Many boaters don’t have dependable refrigeration and they have some amazing feedback on what we traditionally believe must be refrigerated they keep for weeks, non-refrigerated, with no ill effects! The thing is, we still need to do our research. Getting ill when medical services may not be available would be a very bad idea.

      • Rev. J.M.Chance says:

        I also learned that milk is not refrigerated in France and that by lightly coating farm fresh, un-refrigerated eggs with vegetable oil, they can last up to 9 Months before expiring. No refrigeration ever neccessary.

        • Survival Diva says:

          Rev. J.M.Chance,

          I’m encouraged by so many who have contributed to this post. Clearly, we preppers think outside the box ( :

          I also store eggs by coating them with a thin coat of mineral oil. They should be kept with other food storage in a dark, cool (but not freezing) location and turned once a week. To tell if an egg is bad, place it in a pan of water. If it rises to the top, toss it out! If it settles to the bottom, it is safe to consume. The smell test is the second method, which should be in combination with the first. Crack the egg into a separate bowl and do a sniff test for freshness BEFORE adding it to a recipe. The white of a stored egg will be runnier than we are used to, but the flavor will remain the same.

          Even though I live nearby small-hold farmers, I am not certain they’ll be willing to share or barter precious milk. Instead of storing non-fat powdered milk, I chose canned evaporated milk for the extra flavor and calories it offers–when we’re expending energy on unfamiliar chores like hand washing laundry, preserving foods, hunting, fishing, gardening, and gathering firewood (at least for us Northerners), we’re going to need those extra calories!

        • HappyClinger says:

          I have read in several places that in order to store eggs unrefrigerated, the eggs should not be washed.

          • Survival Diva says:

            Good point. Some store store-bought eggs that are always put through a washing process and swear they store well. Others insist on only farm-fresh eggs. These eggs still retain what is called their “bloom”, a protective coating the egg has naturally, deposited by the hen, which adds a layer of protection to seal it from the environment. When storing farm-fresh eggs, wipe them gently with a soft cloth to rid them of fecal matter, then coat them, lightly, with mineral oil.

        • maybe that is what is wrong with the French… seriously, I was stationed in France many years ago & shared a flat with – well, never mind. The reason back then that few people had refrigerators, and got around the need by shopping for food on their way home from work or school. As far as un-refrigerated milk, it wouldn’t last long before it went bad. It will even go bad in the fridge if left too long. Milk is refrigerated in this country a short time after collection and processing, there is a reason.

  9. Canned goods have sell by dates???

    You can tell how much I care can’t you?
    Really, if it was prepared right it should never ‘go bad’ as long as the can is intact. I have lost some cans due to moisture rusting them in the cellar. (We have a damp cellar) but the temp is fairly consistent so I live with it.

  10. After all the fuss I get from family members about outdated food, I broke down and took quite a bit to the Salvation Army. They certainly didn’t refuse it, and obviously know more then the average joe does. Just glad to be able to help others out, so no loss!! So now back to stocking my pantry once again, and actually almost there. With my dehydrator and seal a meal, not to mention the cooler weather just around the corner, { for warming up my home} I plan on trying new recipes for fruits and veggies for long storage. I see the over priced dried seasoned mixed veggies in the grocer and get blown that I’m not making that money.. lol. This was a great article, and to think, canned foods 100 years old. If I didn’t actually know the time spent covered in silt, I most likely would eat it. Lets be safe no matter what!

  11. Living in the UK, manufacturers seem to have expiry dates specific to the individual product. Whilst many foods only have a year or two to expiry, the tuna and corned beef I recently bought have expiry dates of mid 2017 and most bean varieties and sweetcorn are currently showing 2016.
    I can’t see that it would be any different in the US as I’m sure the process must be similar.

    • I have been on the road for 11 years as a business consultant and have been eating “expired” can goods for all those years without any ramifications. I do have an “iron” stomach, but if there was really any danger, I certainly would have experienced it by now. EAT ON!

  12. 1Sergeant-rock says:

    Any of us that served in Viet Nam should remember eating C-rations that were packed during the Korean war, figured the dates on modern canned goods were put there because someone sued someone & won. Just more government control over our lives.

  13. mike harris says:

    Good article on food storage. Most are totally unaware that for years it was regular practice for the food industry to warehouse canned goods for six to eight years before putting them on the market. The public was not aware nor adversly affected by it. Well maybe a bit affected by the chemicals added to maintain long term consistency, but nutrition was still there and it sure beats starving. I am not a fan of canned goods for long term storage but would not hestiate so to do if it meant affording a food hedge for my family. Start with what you can afford then build from there. Canned foods are a good starting place for obvious reasons.

  14. I will happily accept so-called “expired” food. An acquaintance gets regular pick-ups at the local food pantry and one day told us he routinely threw out the whole frozen chickens ’cause they were 3 months past their “good to eat” date…… I had spasms…..told him that as long as they were frozen, they were technically “good to eat” for quite a while. He gave us a couple of chickens and they were wonderful! I think wasting food is so sinful it’s on a par with gluttony and other “cardinal” sins. I have eaten commercially canned chicken & dumplings several years after it’s so-called expiration date, and it was great. Yes, I put stuff in the basement, but it’s only about 67 degrees down there and yes, light does come in (windows built into the house). So it’s not “perfect”, but it works. I’ve also eaten salmon, tuna, veggies, and fruits stored down there – great stuff. And I’ve eaten home-canned tomatoes that were over 5 years old – excellent. So I figure the dates on the cans are to cause people to panic, throw what they have away and buy more…….certainly not what I would call frugal.


    • i too would do the auction thing. its almost gonna be a have to thing at some point. i just wish i knew where to find a site that does it. guess could do a search…

      • Survival Diva says:

        The article that discussed the auction gave the info as Chesapeake Auction House in St. Leonard, Md. This is catching on, so doing a Google search with food auction and your state might bring something up.

    • I too have eaten way out of date frozen chicken but I also learned that once the chicken has thawed, you need to eat it right away. One time I thawed the chicken in the fridge, then waited three or four days until I was ready to cook it. Opening the freezer bag resulted in what smelled like gasoline (petrol). I threw it out; the smell told me it was not safe to eat. Lesson learned. Be aware of what lurks in those stored bags, use common sense, and be safe.

  15. About a month ago I opened a jar of smoked salmon I had put up twenty years ago (1992) it was excellent. As a child I was taught to throw away any cans with bulged lids, to listen for the intake of air when the seal is opened, and to check the interior of the cans or lids for possible corrosion that have eaten through the metal. Look both ways before you cross the street, wear your seatbelt, the list is endless. I don’t wear a seat belt because it is the law but because it is the smart thing to do. I don’t read the expiration dated because I think the food might be bad but to make sure I use the oldest first.

    I have experienced freezer burned meat in under three months and I have gone over two years without any problems. It all depends on how much air I can get out of the packaging. I have had very good luck with ground meat in zip-locks as they are easy to remove the air from in a soft product. A steak, roast, or other item of more defined dimensions is harder to get the air out of.

  16. A question for the Diva: What about home-bottled fruit processed with white grape or apple juice instead of sugar and has turned a darker or a dark shade than normal? It still seems to be good (no bulging or leaking lids, etc., but some of the fruit has turned mushy. I am wondering if it could be used for fruit leather, fruit butter, jam, and other condensing methods of preservation, or is it just good for fertilizer in the garden? I hate to just throw it out if it can be used for some other type of use.

  17. Ann Wilson Kingsley says:

    We never used to have dates on canned foods, and it got tossed only if the can was pooching out, or if it was too rusty or dented. Homed canned foods seem to be a culprit for botulism, but the rule of thumb is to run a spatula or knife around four sides of the jars prior to putting them into the pressure canner to release air bubbles. Then can for an amount of time that will kill any botulism spores on the vegetables. (I haven’t canned meats.) Put any jars that didn’t seal into the fridge, and eat within a few days. In addition, I have noticed that pressure canning times are very long for corn and black eyed peas. Some of us believe that the new hybridized vegetables can much differently than the older versions. Corn burns and black eyed peas get rather unpleasant looking. (I like lots of snaps.) I have quit pressuring any of my vegetables (green beans, corn, black eyed peas) in “Pints” more than 25 minutes. I’m starting to believe the pressuring times were for turning dried corn and beans into quick-preparation canned foods. The food certainly looks and tastes more like fresh with lower pressuring times, and I’m much happier with my product. And it sure beats running that hot pressure cooker all day and into the night.

    • Ann Wilson Kingsley says:

      Forgot something very important regarding Home Canning, I bleach all of my jars. The canning instructions just say to boil 15 minutes, but a strong bleach solution is faster and works better. (Bleach is required in commercial dishwashers because it kills all bacteria, mods, and rot.) I found this out when I was growing sprouts, and my sprouts rotted no matter how much I sterilized my jars by boiling. Commerical sprout growers bleach their sprout jars to prevent rot.

      • for those of you, like me, who can’t use bleach- vinegar works just as well, if not better than bleach- u can make it yourself at home, if u choose- its sustainable n renewable- n yes, i’m prejudiced, lol.

  18. was forced to use my dads korean war water tablets better than nothing they worked iodine when suffiecently protected work well beyond the expired date!

  19. joseph morehouse says:

    Growing up in a large poor family we alway shop at the stores that had a clearnies section and none of us died from eating expired can food . Matter of fact ,I haven’t change my habits it away of saving money. Thank you for the good article , people should know this info.

  20. I’ve suspected for awhile now that the info here is true. Currently, we are enduring a long, low period in life & have had to use most of our stored resources. In cooking, I’ve come across food that had passed its exp. date but being trained as a nurse, I knew what to look for. Seeing & smelling nothing amiss I cooked & served the food without any ill effect. BUT I do wonder, since David mentions keeping the cans at a consistent temperature, how well will our canned goods last when SHTF & there is no A/C to keep house temps consistent? Still, for now, it’s a relief to know I wasn’t just the most recent in a long line of people hungry enough to eat out of date food!

    • Survival Diva says:

      Without air conditioning, storing canned goods on a closet floor will help a little because it will remain cooler and dark. Digging a root cellar would be even better–if you’re able to. Digging into the earth means your canned goods will stay in a cooler environment. This depends upon your water table. Cans shouldn’t be allowed to rust. Storing canned goods on shelves, away from possible water seepage helps. A few pallets piled one on top of each other is an affordable approach—they can be found free at building sites, craigslist, and sometimes at lumber yards. Here in the North, it’s freezing we have to watch for. I store my canned goods in a large storage shed which I heat to at least 55 degrees in winter. In grid down, it all needs to be transferred inside.
      Hope this helps!

    • Store in the basement as long as you can run a dehumidifier or at least keep excess dampness under control.

      • Sally Pesta says:

        We leave a fan on constantly in the basement along with a dehumidifyer running non stop. Our basement windows have the screens on them to block out sunlight. Our basement has no heating vent but all our big appliances are down there. Just for my own sake, i put a cake pan of water on the floor and watched it for days, it never froze. I would guess in the winter its about 50 degrees down there. Its also a very deep basement with very high ceilings, I asked the builder to do that with four extra cement blocks high. I have never had a rusty can or bulged can out of my storage down there. I also use the 5 gallon paint buckets with snap down lids and labels on them for loose stuff ….

        • Sally Pesta says:

          OH, and I use my solar Christmas lights strung across the beams in the basement. They work great. Never have to turn on a light!!!

        • Survival Diva says:

          You have done your homework! Happy to hear you are aware some 5-galon paint buckets are food-grade quality. Home depot is where I get mine (the orange ones); $3.00 rather than $7.00 to $10.00 for traditional food-grade buckets. It saves a lot that goes right back into food storage. Just remember to hammer down the lids and add the date and contents with indelible marker WHERE IT CAN BE CLEARLY READ! Just recently, I reorganized my food storage and noticed some of the buckets had been moved over this past year and the date & Contents could not be read. Not good! In a time of emergency, the last thing you want is to wrestle with 35 lb. to 50 lb. buckets to find out what’s been stored in them. Also, if you use paint buckets, buy the $4.00 opener. It will save you the grief of having to struggle to get them open. Actually, get 2: an heir and a spare ( :

          • Food grade buckets can be had for free if you’ll ask at the
            bakery counter in your local grocery store. They were happy to give them to me since that meant they didn’t have to haul them out back to the dumpster!! They probably won’t be a full 5 gallon size, but they are definitely food grade, comes with lid, and some leftover icing 😉

          • Survival Diva says:

            Great tip! We should always be trying to save money when we can.

    • Charles O'Neal says:

      I work for a large food manufactoring company that has been in business for over 80 years. Since I fly the corporate jet, I get to spend some one on one time with the owner, the decendant of the original founders. Since we haven’t killed anybody in our 80+ year history, I asked this identical question about expiration dates. His reply? He said they had found a can of sweet potatoes that had been in an unheated, un-airconditioned warehouse for 12 years past the expiration date. Since the can looked fine, HE opened and ate the contents himself. He said if anything, the 12 year old sweet potatoes tasted better than fresh ones since the older potatoes had a longer time to absorb the sweet syrup they were packed in. Expiration dates are more about product liability than anything else. I believe that a FIFO method of food storage is advisable, but I wouldn’t let expiration dates worry me much. I think it is a handy way to tell which can of spinach is older, and that is all.

  21. I agree that the sell-by date is misleading. I have used canned foods over the years that has an expired date on it. I do inspect the cans for dents and damage. Don’t know if you have noticed but canned meats and especially salmon has an expiration date of about 5 years. I do a lot of small batch canning year round for us. There is just me and my husband but I share with others. I always put a date on the lid of the jar. I can chili, meat loaf and soups of all kinds. I also do jams, condiments, and apple butter sweetened with Stevia as I am allergic to sugar.

  22. Ed Phillips says:

    Great info, I also donate can goods when dates get close. I always wondered how long they really stayed good. I will keep them longer now. Love this site. Wish I lived closer to a lot of you. We all would make a great prepper Community , and a whole lot safer place to to live. We could make David our Mayor and figure out who goes where next based on our skills. Just food (ha ha) for thought. Hope all do well. Ed in S. Calif.

  23. I spent last week puting a 5 lb bag of pistachio nuts (unshelled ) into old glass rum bottles I had to cut down a plastic funnel to get them in there. I like storing things in glass . whenever I can. I put them near the floor. Bulk is a great place to get dried fruits and nuts cheaper. I’m a nut!!

  24. .50 Cal. Pat says:

    Great article, once again…

    Regarding the “best by” dates on canned goods, just buy your emergency food stocks in smaller, more frequent batches and rotating them out of storage is less of a chore.

    I’ve been buying my storage food (mostly canned) in 4-6 month intervals for the last few years. I keep a running list of what I bought on each trip and I store each batch of food together in large containers (like the ones people store Christmas decorations in. Don’t buy the HUGE “tree sizes” storage containers though as you cannot lift those when you fill them with food!). I also date each can/pack of cans with the month/year they were purchased. I never buy any can with a “dent” and I usually make sure that any cans I am to buy have a best-by date very close to 2 years from the date I buy them (this tells you they haven’t been warehoused very long before your purchase).
    I just check my list when I make a new food-storage purchase, and I rotate what is about 2 years old out into our daily pantry, and refill those storage containers with the freshly purchased items. If you only buy @$125-$175 worth of storage food at a time, you’ll find that eating the things you bring out of storage goes fairly quickly.
    As somebody else mentioned here, don’t forget to buy spices/condiments to compliment your storage foods. If you have a picky eater in your house, like my son is, having these things available may be the ONLY thing (besides sheer starvation) which will get them to eat the stuff anyway! LoL… Ketchup/mustard stores pretty well, honey lasts FOREVER…

    As somebody else mentioned, I too have noticed that anything in a plastic container is only best-by dated for about a year to maybe 16 months. While I do not know this for sure, I would bet that this is a tell-tale that these types of packaging are not as good for long term storage. This is why I mostly buy things in all metal cans or glass containers seem to be marked with the 2 year window as well..

  25. This is a tough one! Years ago they did everything good quality, like they made better quality clothes and better quality furniture that lasted for generations. I trust that back then they would have done canning properly too. But I dunno if I trust them now, in this age of lack of quality. My sister ate old food that was normal food that was left out on the kitchen table too long (it was fresh food, not out of a can) and she got food poisoning and they wanted to take her bowell out at the hospital but I prayed and God and Jesus fixed it and they didnt take her bowell out. They said it might burst otherwise and kill her cause the food poisoning was swelling up her stomach which was expanding like a balloon they said. I just don’t think that food poisoning is worth the risk. I’d rather eat dried foods and get appetite fatigue than get food poisoning and die. You can always grow herbs to “oomph” up your dried food

    • Ann Wilson Kingsley says:

      The old story that got passed around from the grannys when I was a child has it that a family got botulism from potato salad they took to a picnic, then left out over-night to eat the next day. I was told that it was the mayonnaise in the potato salad that killed them. Leaving food out is apparently one of the greatest dangers, and is something Preppers need to be careful of in a disaster situation where no refrigeration is possible. I shop Dollar Tree for some of my emergency supplies, especially the tiny jars of mayonnaise for making deviled ham out of my Spam. I also make my own sweet pickles for this recipe because all commerical sweet pickles are too salty with the Spam.

      • thats my thought also. small mayo….it is the answer.

        • I bought a box of 200 individual packets of mayo (like those found in fast food restaurants) from Costco for my emergency food storage. I feel if I have no electricity and no refrigeration, I won’t have to throw away even a small mayo jar after I use it once.

          • Survival Diva says:


            I found them at Costco. I’m just now re-organizing my food storage before winter sets in, and was reminded to get more ( : I’ve found them online at restaurant supply companies, but so far, the shipping charges were nearly as much as the product itself!

      • Sally Pesta says:

        Google about cut onions and the bacteria they soak in. It was more than likely the onions and not the mayo that killed the family…..

      • commercial mayonnaise has no eggs, and is very unlikely to spoil. Onions in food are very likely to. I read this in an article about investigating which foods sickened people. In the good old days, eggs and oil were whipped to make mayonnaise, and it was runnier than we are used to.

      • Regarding Mayo,
        There has been some info on the internet that it is the ONIONS in the potato salad, not the mayo causing illness.

  26. The problem with canned food is that the inside of the cans are sprayed with PBA to supposedly keep the cans from rusting. The problem is that PBA is a chemical that is a female hormone mimicking chemical. The FDA and the chemical industry say PBA has no side effects however, that is not true. Go to the Alex Jones web site and he has a lot of info on PBA. PBA can be linked to an increase in female characteristic in males and hyper accelerated female characteristic in females. For example, young girls are going through puberty at a much younger age even as young as 6 years old. More men are displaying female characteristics.

    What is BPA? BPA (bisphenol-A) is a hormone mimicking chemical with estrogenic properties. This hormone or endocrine disruptor can interfere with the normal functioning of human and animal hormone systems producing a wide range of adverse effects including reproductive, developmental and behavioral problems. Where is it found? BPA is found in polycarbonate plastic food and beverage containers labeled recycling code 7, including (non BPA-free) baby bottles, plastic food wrap, and epoxy resins that line metal food cans. (Some new bio-based plastics are labeled #7, but are BPA-free.) Why is it a problem? Of 115 published animal studies, 81% found significant effects from low-level BPA exposure. Interestingly, these effects were found in over 90% of government-funded studies, but none of the 11 industry-funded studies. Adverse effects include: Altered immune function Early onset of puberty Increased prostate size Decreased sperm production Changes in gender-specific behavior Changes in hormones, including decreased testosterone Stimulation of mammary gland development in females Hyperactivity Increased aggressiveness Impaired learning and other changes in behavior How is BPA transferred from plastics into humans? Research is showing that plastic containers are leeching bisphenol-A into the foods and liquids they are holding and are subsequently ingested. Who is most at risk? Due to their immature immune systems, rapid development and different eating patterns, fetuses, infants and children around puberty are more vulnerable to toxic exposures. How common is BPA exposure? Human exposure to BPA is widespread. Scientists have measured BPA in the blood of pregnant women, in umbilical cord blood and in the placenta – all at levels demonstrated to alter development in animals. A Centers for Disease Control study detected BPA in the urine of 95% of adults sampled. Why is BPA so controversial? Many leading experts and the FDA argue that BPA is safe to the human public, but independent research suggests otherwise. What alternatives are there? Until there is an all out BPA ban, the best alternative is to avoid food and beverage containers that contain the chemical. Use glass or stainless steel refillable drinking bottles, instead of hard plastic ones. For juice or other drinks, it’s best to use lined aluminum bottles. For baby bottles, choose polypropylene, polyethylene or glass.

    Plastics with recycling codes 1, 2, 4 & 5 are BPA-free and are considered the safest choices. Pliable, milky colored plastics do not contain polycarbonates. How do I minimize exposure to BPA and other dangerous chemicals? Avoid plastics with recycling codes: 3, 6 & 7.

    Minimize canned food consumption. Many brands of soups and beans are now available in reusable glass jars. Buy soft drinks in glass bottles instead of cans.

    If you can’t completely avoid polycarbonates, follow these tips: Heat foods and drinks in a safe container and wait until they are cool enough for consumption before transferring to plastic. Throw away old, scratched plastic polycarbonate baby bottles and sippy cups. Plastic showing signs of wear (scratches or a cloudy, crackled appearance) leach chemicals more readily.

    • Survival Diva says:


      This comment will be necessarily long, but BPA (Bisphenol A) use in the canning process is worth going in to detail. Because of FDA regulations, food processors turned to BPA. However studies showing its harmful effects and public concern over BPA has Campbell’s Heinz and ConAgra turning away from the use of BPA. General Mills now uses BPA-free cans in its Muir Glen organic tomatoes, but aren’t telling the public what they are using in its place, other than to say it’s an approved non-epoxy alternative… which likely means other chemicals of which is not being released to the public, and possibly not tested.
      The company I order from for long-term food storage like dehydrated eggs, fruits and vegetables uses the minimum amount of BPA to meet strict FDA guidelines. For those concerned with BPA, you may want to investigate not only BPA in everyday canned goods, but also long-term food storage.
      The good news is that the FDA says it is looking into the issue and will make a determination. The bad news is if BPA is replaced with something else…will it be found to be detrimental on down the road?
      For now, the following list all contains BPA to one degree or another:
      * Food and drink packaging
      * Store Receipts
      * The lining of food cans
      * The lining of aluminum cans
      * Milk container linings
      * The inside of bottle tops
      * Water Pipes
      * Dental sealants
      * Polycarbonate tableware
      * Plastic Wrap
      * Some Newspaper Ink
      * Carbonless Copy Paper
      Home canning in glass canning jars may be an alternative, but even then, a small amount of BPA is used to coat canning lids to combat corrosion. Tattler, the maker of reusable canning lids does not use BPA.
      Here is at least a partial list of products that do not use BPA in the canning process, or are phasing out BPA use. The cost of canning goes up slightly and in some cases drastically for some of the organic-based canned goods.
      Eden Foods: All 33 of its organic beans, chili, rice & beans, refried, and flavored.
      Trader Joe’s Brand: Canned corn, tomatoes, beans (except baked beans), tunafish, anchovies, poultry, beef, coconut milk, fruit (except mandarins) and vegetables (except artichokes).
      Hunt’s Tomato Products: Only their plain tomatoes
      Whole Foods: 27% of its store-brand canned goods. No specifics given!*
      Amy’s: All canned products are transitioning to BPA-free.
      Campbell’s Soups: also in transition.
      Native Factor: Coconut Water.
      Native Forest: Organic coconut milk, asparagus, mushrooms, hearts of palm and all of their canned fruits.
      Ecofish (Henry & Lisa’s): Canned Tuna.
      Oregon’s Choice: Canned Tuna.
      Vital Choice: Canned salmon, albacore tuna, sardines and mackerel.
      Wild Planet: Canned Sardines and tuna in glass jars.
      Nature’s One: Organic powdered baby milks.
      Muir Glen—also in the process of going BPA-free.
      Tetra-pak (aseptic containers) are lined with Polyethylene, not BPA.

    • Sally Pesta says:

      This is why my long term stored foods are from a company that uses enameled cans and are sealed. Shelf life is 30 yrs. Once opened, they are 12-18 months.
      This is a great list you put up. I will be printing this out and going thru it.
      I preferred dried salmon to canned, etc. all personal preferances. I figure if you have to bunker down, you may as well do it in style…. we are starting to play with dehydrating our own salmon and venison and so far loving the results!! AND I know what I put in them.

  27. I’m a caterer and a “CPFM” Certified Professional Food Manager. We have one venue where we sell directly to the public on an individual basis and I have had clients who returned a bag of potato chip because it had expired (yup we missed it). My question is this, and I have posted it before: does that bag of chips become poison the day it expires? If so, at what time? One second past mid-night? and in what time zone.
    There are five types of contamination:
    bacterial; basically germs able to live in food and humans (most common)
    viral; germs that catch a ride in food, but must have a living host
    parasitic; worms and amoebes
    chemical; soaps, cleansers, bug killers and other things humans shouldn’t ingest
    physical; sticks, stones, hair, glass, insects and their parts, finger nails, and use you imagination
    And just for the heck of it; the FDA has published a handbook for permissible level of filth that includes insect and animal parts.
    Please DON’T read this document unless you really need to lose some pounds.

    • Survival Diva says:


      I was once a part-time food demo gal to help pay for college. I demo’d pizza. My education was brought way up when people would stop by and tell me about what was allowed in food, and of course, pizza. Never ate another frozen pizza after that ( :

    • In the mid 70’s I was in charge of the clinical laboratory at Clark AFB in the Pi. One special chemistry test we performed called for Zinc metal I ordered a new supply, and when it arrived it had a 5 year expiration date. I sent a letter to the supply people and asked what Zinc turned to after 5 years. If it was gold or silver I wanted to buy several tons and get rich. NO response. The government tries to control too much.

  28. Thanks for the encouraging information about food storage and use of canned foods. I have found that by observing the warning signs you stated in the article, I have never eaten any bad canned foods and some have been at least five years out of date. Remember though that if you are going to go by the food date, that consider adding 6 months to a year onto the stamp date as there is no telling how long the can sat on the distributors shelf before it was stamped.

    • Al McLennan says:

      I worked ina food processing plant after high school – the dates are put on the cans during the canning process, not when the product is shipped.

  29. Carol Frederick says:

    I wonder about the newer trend of grocery items offered in plastic containers instead of glass such as mayonnaise, peanut butter, jelly, etc, I read or heard somewhere that these items will not store well long-term and knowing the dangers of plastic containers and wrap in temperature extremes I am concerned. I avoid plastic containers but now some foods only come in plastic. I buy glass containers when possible. I know plastic deteriorates over time unlike glass and may affect food stored in it. Is there any real information available about this. Is it really safe to store mayo in bulk that is packaged in plastic containers? Which items should be avoided and which would be OK to store long-term?

    • Survival Diva says:


      Good question! I will research it and Post about the outcome. It can be VERY difficult unearthing any information on post sell-by dates. Because light deteriorates foods, plastic and glass containers need to be stored in as dark an area as possible like a basement or possibly a closet. Just as with all food storage, storing them in a cool place will bring optimal shelf life.

    • ‘Bad stuff’ in the adhesive of the label on the plastic container gravitates to the contents. That includes olive oil. So plastic is not to be stored long term.

  30. Sally Pesta says:

    Great Article and one I have been echoing for years…..
    This goes for just about everything with an expiration date.
    My brother said something interesting about expired medications….after watching people bring in old prescriptions… he said, “I keep it all and use marker to write the exp. date on the lid. I figure that if the systems in power were all shut down, and I or a family member had an infection, an antibiotic a year past its expiration would be better than no prescription at all”…. I agree and use critical judgement as to what I keep and what I don’t.

    As for canned foods, homemade canned foods especially will outlive any recommendations. And you know how you did it, your own hygiene, etc…..
    We have started going to freeze dried and dehydrated foods and rotating our older tinned canned foods out of the storage locker.
    I have bought many spices and flavorings to “spark” stuff up, those I keep sealed in original packaging and put in heavy zip locked baggies. I wouldn’t hesitate to use any of those years past the dates.

    Our theory is that we can “survive in place” for 6 maybe up to 12 months.
    We figure we can ride out anything for 6 months. If its really gone bad, and we need to “bug out” we can and we have that in place (alright about 75% ready)….
    Sand point well equipment — check
    Extra goose down sleeping bags– check
    Extra brown rice to feed Rottwieler– check
    5 Gal. First Aid bucket–check
    Food for 10 for one year– check
    Roll of 8 foot high fencing–check
    … a list several pages long we sat and wrote and revised for the last 4 yrs…
    We do not hesitate to tweek and revise, rotate, try out…..
    (Yes I can cook over open fire, coals. Yes I can load, reload, oil and clean any gun in the house. Yes I know how to prime well to pull water, etc… make sure you know how to do what you plan to do!)
    But more than all of this, we have our faith in God and we trust He will deliver us from evil.
    Be in charge of your life, and don’t let fear overwhelm you…. whatever you start and plan and execute today is one step on the road to peace and knowledge that you are doing something. God Bless!

  31. I am wondering what the life of frozen meat is, like fish etc and the effects of freezer burn I have some fish that has been frozen from 1 to 3 years and I can’t get a decent answer from the stores. Thank you.

    • Hi Don, While I don’t know for fact frozen meat’s lifespan, I DO know if you use a vacuum sealer to bag your meat, it will last much longer without losing color or taste. I’ve read suggested freeze time for meat as follows; beef: up to 12 mths, pork (including ham), 6 mths, fish, 12 mths, sausage, 3 mths, chicken up to 12 mths. We buy bulk meat, bring home, divide then vacuum seal for individual meals. In these vacuum sealed bags, we’ve kept meat frozen for up to 2 years without ANY taste or color change. But I’ve noticed if I only freeze in freezer bags, meat discolors and tastes off much faster than the suggested time. I don’t use paper to wrap meat. Perhaps someone else can tell you about that. Hope this helps.

    • Here is a site you may be interested in.
      stilltasty. com
      It gives storage life for best taste and says that if an item is frozen before its expiry date it will last indefinitely. Of course it may not taste as good as when fresh, but will still be eatable.

    • We use a slow cooker, and you can not tell meat has ever had a freezer burn. Never tried fish, but would do it if I had freezer burn fish.

  32. I found this article very helpful, since I have cleaned out my cuboards, and tossed all expired cans in the past. Now, I know better. Thankyou for this info.

  33. The MREs on my shelf right now are 24 years old. I bought them when they were 10 years old…a long time ago. The cheese spread looks like peanut butter and the peanut butter spread looks like cheese now, but they are fine. Enjoyed the article. I have long considerd the canned food dates a bunch of lega CYA BS. I routinely ate frozen venison out of the freezer and preserves out of the cellar that were beyond 10 years old as a kid. Aside from the genral disturst for government, there were no side effects.

    • David Morris says:

      Had to laugh at your peanut butter/cheese swap 🙂 They MAY be spouting CYA BS, but doing a little CYA BS myself, I must remind people that there are very real bacteria that can hurt/kill you in foods.

      • I worry that the lining of the cans have changed over the years and today may not be safe. Does anyone know?

      • David,
        The worst of the lot is Clostridium Botulinum or botulism. It can form spores and can grow without oxygen. So even though you may pack your food in nitrogen the organism can still grow. In many cases contracting botulism is fatal. Much botulism comes from improper home canning, that doesn’t mean you should not can, rather that you do it correctly. Most food poisoning is just an inconvenience, though the very young and older people need to be very cautious. By the way do not feed honey to infants under 1 year of age; it contains trace amounts of botulism and can make them very sick
        Once again the stilltasty site has a lot of information and it seems to go along with my training.

  34. Montego Man says:

    Definitely look forward to each newsletter! It’s surprising how much food is dumped in the trash every day. There are two major supermarkets in our area. Fresh produce, meats, and “expired” can goods fill their dumpsters and are picked up daily. The store managers refuse to let anyone “dumpster dive” nor will they contribute their out of date foods to you or a food pantry out of fear of liability — company policy. What a waste!
    I completely agree with you that the FDA regulations to set a “Best used by” of “Sell by” date to be completely misleading on sealed packaged foods, especially cans foods. Congressional zealots, who believe people can’t think for themselves, shoved this down our throats through the FDA mandates. The way canned foods are processed today, they do keep for many years unless the process is compromised, then you get the bloated cans and so on. Dried foods, properly sealed and stored, will last even longer. Keep the product in its original packaging, then place it in a heavy storage bag and properly stored, will maintain the integrity for years to come. Foods that are vacuumed sealed also have a lengthy shelf life. Cans and containers of sealed nuts and dried fruit will maintain their nutrition for extended periods of time.
    We have become a disposable society. This includes out food. I know families who have to pinch pennies and have to use food stamps (due to the bad economy and unemployment) to put food on the table, and they learn quickly how to stretch their food supplies. It’s surprising how much junk food with empty calories people purchase and consumes, then decries the rising price of foods. Forget the junk food and purchase that which is healthy for you and your family. You will be surprised how far you grocery and prep budgets will stretch.

    • David Morris says:

      If only they had pigs, chickens, or goats in the back of the store eating all of that “junk” and converting it to yummy food.

      • Love the chicken comment. Growing up in the city I never knew that they eat EVERYTHING! Between our 5 hens and our dogs very little winds up in our compost or in the trash.

  35. I rarely, if ever, check dates except while purchasing milk. I will check something that has been in the pantry ‘forever’ to note if I should be a bit more cautious to smell, look and taste test before serving.
    And then we have long term storage foods which are claimed good for 25 years if stored at 70 degrees or below. Few of us have walk in coolers, root cellars or desire to keep AC set at 70 throughout the summer. So where are the realistic storage numbers??

    • I live in Phx, AZ, area so our pantry stays around 80. We had some Ranch Style beans (Costco 8 pack) that were 4 years past the exp date (so like 6 years old) and the taste, smell, and color were the same as a new can. Like David says it’s the temp swings that are the big problem more then a descent steady temp.

    • Patriot Dave says:

      botulism Food poisoning caused by the ingestion of the toxin produced by spores of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Botulism can be fatal Botulinum neurotoxin is considered one of the most potent, lethal substances known. As little as about 1 nanogram/kg can be lethal to an individual, and scientists have estimated that about 1 gram could potentially kill 1 million people. This small amount of toxin capable of killing humans has made the toxin a candidate for use in weapons for biowarfare
      According to my Ball canning book; the toxin does not have an odor, taste, or anything visible. You cannot look or smell food to determine if it is still good. The best evidence: The swelling of the can or jar is caused by the gases produced by the bacteria.
      One point about the 100 y.o. stuff in 30′ of silt in the bottom of the MO river. The enviornment was almost perfect. no oxygen, no light, low temperatures, no temperate changes.
      I don’t want to scare anyone off from using expired food. I do all the time. Just be very careful.
      Personally, I think you are more prone to “pick up” something from a buffet, salad bar, pot luck, office party. A majority of males and females do not wash adequately after relieving themselves. I have witnesses the folks in the office, just walk straight from their offices, to the break room for the little party, never stop off to wash up and start digging into the food.

      • Charles O'Neal says:

        There is no method of spotting botulism in canned goods. It is my understanding that only food spoilage causes cans to swell and that means that it was not processed right or the can did not seal properly and allowed air into the can, spoiling the food. Botulism spores cannot exist at temps above 220 degrees or a pH below 4.2. Only a pressure cooker can raise temps to a safe 240 degrees (water boils at 212 so 240 is only attainable under pressure). A low pH food can safely be canned using only a hot water bath such as jams and jellies. Vegatables and meat, higher in pH, need to be pressure canned. Of course never use a can of vegetables that spews, foams or smells bad when opened. Botulism spores are odorless and tasteless. You will get sick to your stomach and vomit and have diareha from food poisoning from spoiled food. Botulism, however, will probably kill you.

  36. I grew up durning the great depression and I am living proof ( 85 ) that out dated food
    os good for a couple years.

  37. Judith Cowan says:

    Good article. My grandfather kept canned milk for many, many years past the 2-year mark and still consumed it numerous times with no ill effects. My husband is still a little hesistant to eat anything past the date on the can, but I have no problem with it. I just make sure to boil canned goods the suggested 5 minutes in order to be certain to take care of any opportunistic bacteria that might be lurking around. We’ve never had any problems with “old” canned goods as long as we follow the rules with safe storage precautions as above.

    • Patriot Dave says:

      I have seen contradictory information. Sometimes in the same article. boil for 10 minutes. don’t boil. i.e.

      “Because botulism neurotoxin is destroyed by high temperatures (85 degrees C for five minutes), people who eat home-canned foods should consider boiling the food for 10 minutes before eating it to help ensure that the food is safe to consume. Bulging cans or abnormal-smelling preserved foods should be discarded. Do not taste-test them or attempt to boil the food!”

      this was at: medicinenet. com/botulism/page6.htm
      They also include treatments in the article.

  38. Cindy Merrill says:

    depends on the canned food. Canned milk, for instance, I wouldn’t take chances on, since dried nonfat milk in bulk costs way less anyway.

  39. I have been stocking up on can goods for at least six years. I occasionlly test a can or two
    to insure it is edible. I have found the corn dated “best used by July 31, 2008”, after 6 years still tastes sweet. The green beans dated the same only tasted a little “bland”. there
    were no after-effects the next day, (if you know what I mean). I keep the goods in areas
    of the house that are temperature controlled around 75 degrees. I plan to stock up on
    more ASAP.

  40. Even milk is poorly dated. I use my milk and put it right back in the refridgerator and I have found that it is still good 2 weeks or more past the date on the container. The key is to use and immediately replace in the fridge.

  41. tugboat dave says:

    I remember eating canned goods as a youngster in the mountains of WV. There was no expiration date and the bottled/preserved goods were excellent. Finally got my wife on board so that she doesn’t throw food out just because of the date on it.

  42. I think you have a good point properly stored i will be good for years
    as in your article Army tests 40 year old stuff no detectable proplem
    even the 100 year old stuff wouldent kill you. I have felt for a long time expiration date’s are overkill being too cautious just be careful as you say fo bulges and leaks
    Good Article


  1. […] Important Note: Although the shelf life of canned goods is typically believed to be 2 years, there has been some very interesting studies that say otherwise, and the news is good for preppers! You can read about it by going to The Mother Of All Food Storage Myths. […]

  2. […] of cooking along with reduced fuel and water consumption. If you didn’t catch an earlier post The Mother Of All Food Storage Myths you should read it, especially if  your food storage decisions are centered on shelf […]

  3. […] Diva here, picking up the thread of last week’s post. I briefly mentioned appetite fatigue in “The Mother of All Food Storage Myths”. Although this subject is not spoken of often enough, it deserves a post of its own and why this […]

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