When you think there might be a food shortage or other disaster, there’s a good reason that people reach for canned goods. These have a long shelf life, unmatched by other foods in your pantry. But even precious cans of food can go bad eventually. This is especially true if they weren’t stored at the optimal temperature or if other elements have come into play.
According to the University of Minnesota Extension, canned goods give you particular signs if they succumb to spoilage. Examine any cans for rust, bad dents, leaking, or bulging. This is a sign that the can might have been unsealed. Ensure that the lids of canned goods in glass jars have yet to pop. And the most tell-tale sign is a foul odor if you open it. If you notice any of these signs, glove up and throw away the canned goods. Eating expired canned goods can result in botulism, a potentially fatal illness from the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.
The USDA states that canned goods for low-acid foods like canned meat and veggies can last up to five years. Those with high acidity, like canned tomatoes, have a shorter shelf life of about 18 months. You’ll also want to store your canned goods in a cool, dry place and rotate the oldest to use them first.