Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service Food Safety at home podcast series. These podcasts were designed with you in mind - the consumer - who purchases and prepares meat, poultry and processed meat, egg products for your family and friends.
Each episode will bring you a different food safety topic ranging from safe storage, handling, and preparation of meat, poultry and processed egg products to the importance of keeping foods safe during a power outage.
So sit back, turn up the volume and listen in.
Welcome to Food Safety at Home. This is Kathy Bernard with the Food Safety and Inspection Service. Im your host for this segment. With me today is Archie Magoulas, technical information specialist from FSIS Food Safety Education Staff. Archie and I will discuss the safety of commercially canned foods.
Hello, Archie, welcome to the show.
Thank you Kathy, Im pleased to be here.
Archie, what exactly is canning and how does it work?
Canning provides a way to store foods for extremely long periods of time. First, food is washed and prepared before packing it in tin-coated steel cans or glass jars. To prevent food spoilage and kill any pathogenic organisms, the container is then subjected to high heat - at least 250° F - for a specific length of time depending on the food being canned.
As the food cools, a vacuum seal is formed that prevents any new bacteria from getting in. Since the food in the container is commercially sterile, it doesnt spoil. Once the container is opened, however, bacteria can enter and begin growing in the food, so any unused portions must be refrigerated within 2 hours.
USDAs Meat and Poultry Hotline and FSIS virtual representative, Ask Karen often receive questions about the safety of canned foods that have been stored in our kitchen cupboards, basements and so on. How should canned goods be stored to ensure theyre safe?
First, remember to always store canned foods and other shelf-stable products in a cool, dry place. Never put them above the stove, under the sink, in a damp garage or basement, or any place exposed to high or low temperature extremes.
What do you mean by high or low temperature extremes?
You dont want them to be subjected to very high temperatures or very cold temperatures--- both can affect the integrity of the can or jar, negatively.
Assuming we store them in a cool and dry place, what is the recommended time to keep these foods?
Commercially prepared canned foods, whether meat
and poultry or non-meat types -- such as canned vegetables and fruit - are classified in two general categories: high-acid and low-acid foods. High-acid foods, such as tomatoes and other fruit, can be stored up to 18 months. Low-acid foods, such as meat and vegetables, can be kept 2 to 5 years.
Is there any danger associated with commercially prepared canned foods?
While extremely rare, a toxin produced by
is the worst danger in canned foods. NEVER USE food from containers that show signs of botulism: leaking, bulging, rusting, or badly dented cans; cracked jars; jars with loose or bulging lids; canned food with a foul odor; or any container that spurts liquid when opening. DO NOT TASTE THIS FOOD! Even the tiniest amount of
botulinum toxin can be deadly.
Another question we often get on the Hotline is What Do Can Codes Mean?
Cans must have a packing code to enable tracking of
the product in interstate commerce. This enables
manufacturers to rotate their stock as well as to locate their
products in the event of a recall.
These codes, which appear as a series of letters and/or
numbers, might refer to the date or time of manufacture. They aren't meant for the consumer to interpret as "use-by" dates. There is no source which tells how to translate the codes into dates because each manufacturer determines its own coding system.
Cans may also have "open" or calendar dates. Usually these are "best if used by" dates for peak quality.
You can learn more about the safety of commercially canned foods by visiting the FSIS Web site at
www.fsis.usda.gov. Or visit us online for assistance from our virtual representative Ask Karen at A-s-k-k-a-r-e-n.gov.
Consumers may also call our toll-free USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline. Thats 1-888-674-6854.
Thats it for this week. Weve been talking to Archie Magoulas from FSIS Food Safety Education Staff. Thank you so much, Archie, for your helpful guidance on the safe handling and storage of commercially canned foods. Im Kathy Bernard and Id like to thank you for joining us for this episode of Food Safety at Home. And remember, Be Food Safe.
Well, that's all for this time. Thanks for joining us today for another episode of food safety at home!
For answers to your food safety questions call USDA's toll-free Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline. That's 1-888-674-6854.
You can also get answers to food safety questions online from our virtual representative "Ask Karen" at
Let us know what you think of this podcast by sending your comments to
Thanks for tuning in.