The trouble with stockpiling emergency food supplies is that you never know when you will need them.
Canned goods are amongst the most popular emergency food supplies because of their longevity and the fact that they’re easy to store.
If you buy smart, you can have a supply of canned goods that is still edible in years to come.
We’ll look at the full range of canned products to find out which will keep their quality the longest and still be edible long after their expiry date.
Summary of Canned Products and Shelf Lives
|Powdered Milk||20 years|
|Butter Powder||10 years|
|Fish (i.e., Sardines and tuna)||6 years|
|Beans (i.e., cannellini beans, lentils, chickpeas)||6 years|
|Meat (Spam, etc.)||3 years|
Some Canned Products Can Last 30 Years or More
Research performed by the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Science at Brigham Young University in Utah revealed that, when stored correctly, some canned products can last well beyond their best-by date.
The food may not retain the same quality as before, but it would still be edible.
The researchers tested products packaged in #10 cans and discovered that many foods had a shelf life of over 30 years.
According to their findings, if you store the following canned products at room temperature or below, they could last anywhere between 20 and 30 years:
- Apple slices
- Corn meal
- Macaroni pasta
- Pinto beans
- Potato flakes
- Powdered milk
- Rolled oats
- White rice
Canned meat, like the infamous Spam, is heated to temperatures of around 100°C (212°F) before packaging. This is hot enough to kill off any microorganisms that might cause the product to spoil.
The meat is then packaged in a sealed can that prevents any new bacteria from contaminating the product.
Spam is notorious for its longevity. The manufacturers warn that it should only be consumed before the best-by date, around a year after production. Others believe it can be edible indefinitely as long as there’s no discoloration or nasty odor. Read more about how long spam lasts.
Research indicates that canned meat can last over a hundred years. In 1815, Otto von Kotzebue of Russia took some canned meats with him on two arctic expeditions. One can of veal remained unopened and ended up in a museum, where it remained untouched until 1938 when it was finally opened.
The veal was “chemically analyzed and found to have kept most of their nutrients and to be in fairly perfect condition.” According to the cat that ate it, it was also pretty tasty!
To be safe, you should probably consume your Spam and other canned meats within “2 to 3 years” of its best-by date.
Acidic foods that have been heat-processed before packaging will last longer than those with a higher pH value. Microorganisms, including bacteria, mold, and yeasts, are highly sensitive to a food’s pH.
An extremely high or low pH value “will prevent microbial growth,” Many foods have “pH values low enough to offer some protection against microbial growth.”
Many canned fruits have a pH of 4.6 or less and contain large quantities of sugar, which also acts as a preservative. This combination of factors means they can last well beyond their best-by date if stored correctly.
You can expect the following items to retain their flavor and nutritional value for up to 18 months:
Canned vegetables may not maintain their texture or flavor for eight years, but they will still be safe to eat.
Tests performed on canned foods back in the Seventies found that a can of corn still looked and smelled pretty much the same after 40 years. Not only that, but it also maintained a similar nutritional profile.
Eating 40-year-old canned corn probably won’t be your most memorable meal, but it might save you from starvation.
Sardines, tuna, and other types of canned fish are packed with healthy omega-3s and can be eaten straight from the can.
This combination of nutrition and convenience makes them the perfect survival food. Many such products can last between three and six years, making them even more suitable for preppers and survivalists.
How to Extend the Shelf Life of Canned Produce
The key to longevity lies in four critical factors: humidity, air, light, and temperature. If you minimize the product’s exposure to these four elements, you can extend its shelf life tenfold.
Low humidity extends the shelf life of canned produce by preventing damage to the cans. If a can starts to rust, the contents are no longer safe to eat. If you can keep your cans at a humidity level of less than 15%, you can expect them to last much longer.
Keep it Cool
The Canned Food Alliance recommends storing your canned produce at moderate temperatures of 75℉. According to them, this can increase the shelf life to around “two years from the date it was processed.” The product’s nutritional value can last well beyond that, although the quality, color, and texture may vary.
Discard Damaged Cans
Canned produce is sealed to prevent contamination. If the can is damaged, it can compromise that seal, allowing bacteria to enter.
A dent in the can’s exterior may also damage the interior lining, which prevents the food from coming into contact with the metal of the can. This may result in the can rusting or swelling as the contents react with the container.
Bacteria may also contaminate the contents, releasing gases as it grows, causing the can to bulge.
Any can that’s been compromised is potentially dangerous and could contaminate other items in your emergency stockpile.
For more information about storing your emergency food stockpile, check out our guide to canned food shelf life.
Nearly all canned produce is safe to eat long after its expiry date. Canned fruits can last up to 18 months, and canned vegetables for as long as eight years. Dried products like wheat, rice, and oats last even longer and can still be edible for up to 30 years after packaging.