Is Canned Food Safe if it Gets Hot: Questions Answered

You’re working hard to stock up, and some tuna, green beans, and even drinks sound like useful additions. They are, but what do all those things have in common? Well, they’re all canned goods, so you need to make sure it’s kept in the right conditions. Otherwise, you’ll be throwing away money, or worse. You can get very sick from bad canned goods. As long as your cans don’t explode from water expansion in the cold, they’ll be fine, but what about heat? Can you tell when canned food has gotten too hot, and isn’t safe? I’ll help you sort through your supplies and figure out what to make for dinner and what to toss so you can stay healthy. Luckily, it’s easy enough to tell the difference.

Is canned food safe if it gets hot? Your canned food is safe if it’s no warmer than seventy-five degrees. Although most canned goods can withstand temperatures up to a hundred degrees for a short while, over seventy-five can affect the quality. However, there are other signs to watch for that indicate spoilage, like can expansion. 

Canned Food Safety: Heat & More

The heat will undoubtedly spoil your canned goods. That’s why I don’t recommend using your car for storage, but what’s the big deal. Although some canned goods are better cooked, you don’t want to pre-heat them because it can cause mold growth, among other problems.

Foods tend to expand in the heat. This can cause cans to bubble or expand, which shows an obvious problem. However, not all canned goods will demonstrate this sign simply because they got warm.

In some cases, Clostridium botulinum can contaminate overheated or improperly packed canned goods. Mold spores and decomposition can happen in improperly stored canned goods. Additionally, the heat can cause the cans to sustain damage.

What Happens If You Eat Bad Canned Food

Damaged canned goods will make you sick. Not only will spoil food cause abdominal pain, but it can have a host of other issues as well. Food poisoning is more dangerous in emergencies. Typically trouble will occur within a few hours to a day after consuming harmful canned goods and maybe the result of campylobacter, salmonella, E.coli, or other contamination. Plus, if anyone else ate the same food, they’ll be ill too.

Symptoms of Normal Food Poisoning

Not everyone experiences all the symptoms. However, if your whole family or group ate the same food, and they have any of these symptoms, you may have gotten food poisoning. Additionally, the severity varies from person to person based on their immune system and constitution.

  • Weakness- It goes without saying, weakness is detrimental in any survival situation. You need to stay healthy and remain capable of action during a disaster.
  • Muscle Aches- Sore muscles aren’t a massive problem if you can push past it. However, anything that slows you down or steals your focus is terrible news for survivors.
  • Gas- It may not seem like a big deal to fart. However, it’s a sign of intestinal distress and other issues. Being stinky in a survival situation won’t make things easier.
  • Diarrhea- Especially if you’re on the move, it can be a problem. Not only does it feel bad and waste time, but diarrhea takes vital nutrients and water out of your body. That can be a more serious problem in an emergency than it would normally.
  • Nausea & Vomiting- Upset stomach can cause you to barf. Then, not only do you have no food in your stomach, but the acid can damage your throat.

Severe Food Poisoning Signs

Most of the time, a person who has food poisoning will pass the bad food out of their system and heal. Time, rest, and fluids will allow their body to fight. Unfortunately, there are more severe issues that can arise. Keep an eye out for these signs of acute food poisoning.

  • Fever- A sharp spike in your body temperature might help you fight viruses and other health problems, but when your fever gets too high, it can cause brain damage. Tylenol can help, but in a real SHTF scenario, it might be hard to find.
  • Severe Stomach Cramping- Extraordinary stomach pain is nothing to sneeze at. You shouldn’t ignore unusually severe pains.
  • Prolonged Vomiting- Throwing up is one thing, but when it lasts more than a few minutes, you need to take steps to prevent further vomit.
  • Dehydration- Either diarrhea or vomiting can contribute to dehydration. Losing your water too quickly is a death sentence when you’re low on water and electrolytes. Watch out for dizziness, dry mouth, fatigue, confusion, and excessive urination.
  • Black or Bloody Stools- Any sign of blood when you poop is terrible news. It means you’re bleeding somewhere in your intestinal tract. Resultantly, the blood gets into your feces.
  • Death- In severe cases, death can result from a combination of these symptoms and a lack of proper treatment.

Treating Food Poisoning from Spoiled Canned Goods

When you are in the midst of an emergency survival situation, anything that harms, sickens, or slows you down is problematic. Even a fart can cause problems if, for example, you’re hiding from attackers. We store food to stay healthy, so proper storage and caution are necessary.

Modern people have gotten spoiled from easy access to medical assistance. In a real disaster, you may not have that for days, or ever depending on the severity. Waiting on medical aid that may not come is a bad plan.

You need to prevent dehydration most. Have the affected person take small sips of water or clear fluids. This will help keep enough water in the body, plus it may help with nausea.

Alternately, it’s essential to avoid certain medicines. It might seem obvious to use an anti-diarrhea or anti-nausea med, but please don’t. Unfortunately, this can make things worse. Have the sick person rest and recuperate as much as possible.

Botulism Can Mimic Overheating in Canned Food

Luckily it’s rare to encounter botulism, improperly canned goods may be contaminated. Although this isn’t necessarily related to overheating, some of the symptoms are similar. Unfortunately, botulism is a much more significant concern than standard food poisoning.

Clostridium botulinum produces a potent neurotoxic chemical. While weakness and abdominal cramping may appear similar to ordinary food poisoning, typically, those signs pass after a day or two. Alternately, with botulism, the effects can last weeks.

Moreover, botulism can cause muscle paralysis, difficulty breathing, and blurred vision. It also sometimes makes your eyelids droopy, or the tongue feels thick. Plus, signs may take twelve to thirty-six hours to manifest. Sadly, you’ll need botulinum antitoxin and a hospital stay to handle this problem.

Avoid low acid foods and home-canned mystery meals. Most vegetables and meats have less acid than necessary to kill off botulism inside their containers.

Storing Canned Goods Safely

All canned goods require similar storage conditions. For optimal preservation, you need several things. First, low moisture is vital. Next, darkness helps keep spoilage down. Third and finally, you’ll want the right temperature range.

Because cans are made from metal, moisture is the enemy. Despite all modern efforts to create rust-proof metals, over time cans become more susceptible to moisture. You should rotate out and eat your supplies regularly, replacing them with newer cans.

If you have a root cellar or basement with a stable temperature, you can try sealing your cans by dipping them in paraffin wax. This may help keep out moisture and contaminants over time. Likewise, vacuum sealing cans inside of bags could extend the shelf life as long as those bags remain intact.

Some of the foods you can store in cans are surprising like B & M Brown Bread from Amazon. This unexpected and delightful raising bread is tasty warm, or cold, and can be eaten right out of the can. Brown molasses bread is sweet and satisfyingly full of carbs for survival. To find out more about B & M by click here. 


When you have any ‘canned’ goods inside jars, they are especially susceptible to light. Always opt for darker glass if you can get it. Plus, storing all your jars and cans away from sunlight and heat sources helps extend the shelf life and prevent label fading.

Canned food in clear jars will suffer a nutrient loss if exposed to light. Furthermore, it also becomes discolored. Light typically indicates heating, although it’s not necessarily enough to cause spoilage. For example, when food is only exposed to a lightbulb periodically, it’s not a significant concern.

The sun isn’t your only enemy when it comes to heat. Water heaters, stoves, and other sources of heat can damage your canned goods over time. For best results, store your cans off the ground in a stable temperature, dry, and dark place.

Are Expired Canned Goods Safe to Eat

You should always try to eat canned goods by the expiration date. That said, we are assuming that your preparation may someday include a situation where this isn’t a viable option. So how long can you wait to eat your food?

Well, in optimal storage conditions, most canned goods will last up to six years. However, you need to know how to inspect cans for damage and spoilage properly. Guess-and-check is excellent for estimating how many jellybeans in a jar in elementary school. However, it is not a safe or sane method for survival food consumption.

To answer the question as best I can, yes; you can eat foods stored past their expiration date in an emergency. Unfortunately, it’s vital to ascertain that the food is safe before you eat it—more on that in a moment.

How Long Could Canned Goods Last

It may surprise you to learn that cans found in a hundred-year-old shipwreck contained edible and safe food. A big part of food storage is knowing how long your foods can last.

Although the exact shelf life of every food you want varies, it would do you a world of good to research how long it can last. Everyone has their preferences, but making a practical assessment of what works best for your diet is part of proper emergency preparedness planning. Some things certainly go off quickly, but there are also a few foods that last virtually forever.

Although it didn’t make the forever-list, getting some cases of V8 Original from Amazon is a smart choice. You can drink it from the can, or add it to flavor soups, stews, and more. Getting the vitamins and nutrients your body needs is vital in an emergency, and V8 is a great way to make that happen. Check the reviews right here. 

Forever Foods List

  • Honey Powder, Maple Syrup Powder, Corn Syrup & White Sugar- Because these sugary foods are so stable, they don’t expire. Unfortunately, if you get any of them wet, you’re going to lose that fantastic preservative quality.
  • Fruitcake- That Christmas staple that everyone complains about is often packed with everything it needs to last for decades. The alcohol and sugar content work together with flour to create a stable barrier for the dried fruits. Especially when vacuum sealed and kept away from sun and moisture, your granny’s fruitcake might be around for your grandchildren to eat. At least one fruitcake made it a hundred and six years.
  • Soy Sauce, Salt & Vinegar- Although they aren’t foods on their own, all three of these shelf-stable pantry staples will keep as long as they remain sealed and stored. Additionally, you can use the first two for your salt needs in an emergency. The latter two both work to sterilize and preserve, so I recommend keeping all three around.
  •  Ghee- Especially in its powdered form, clarified butter, known as Ghee doesn’t expire.
  • Hard Liquors- Again, this isn’t food as such, but it has calories, and in a pinch, it’s useful to sterilize surfaces, or for drinking.
  • Cornstarch & Bullion Cubes- Like most items on this list, both cornstarch and bullion cubes will remain permanently the same. If you don’t allow contaminants like moisture and light to interfere, then you’ll have these for years to come.

When Canned Goods Go Bad

Canned goods might be safe even if they got hot. Similarly, they can go off when you do a perfect job of storing them. Accidents happen. The three main telltale signs of food spoilage are easy enough to spot.

First, look for bulging cans. This indicates a buildup of gas from the decomposition process. Any pop-top that isn’t depressed has lost its vacuum seal. Also, cans that are bulging tend to be rotten inside. Don’t even open these because they are both spoiled and potentially dangerous.

Secondly, you should examine your cans for signs of rust or other breaches. Make sure you have good light. Remove any labels and check the seams. Next, consider the top, bottom, and sides thoroughly. Any rust, dents, or leaks are a warning. Read it as, “Do not eat!”

Finally, there’s the smell and appearance test. If you open a can and the food smells off, or nasty, then you can assume it’s gone over to the dark side. It’s not worth doing a taste test. Furthermore, in canned goods, looks do matter.

If your can bursts open, there was a buildup of gas inside it. Moreover, you may see foam or froth at the top. These are visual cues that mean you need to put the can down and find something else to eat. Dispose of the contents and can properly. Then, make a meal out of anything else.

What if Canned Goods Freeze

Freezing might damage some of the nutritional value of your food. Plus, it can change the texture in unpleasant ways as ice crystals form inside. However, frozen cans aren’t a problem as long as they remain intact.

Always place frozen, canned goods in the fridge. Thawing at warmer temperatures is not advisable. You shouldn’t eat rapidly thawed canned goods.

Consider adding a few cans of Libby’s Whole Kernel Sweet Corn to your plans. Corn holds up exceptionally well over time, and it’s useful in many recipes. Libby’s is kosher and packed in the USA. Better still, corn freezes well and thaws quickly. Plus, it’s fully cooked so you can eat it straight from the can if you like. Pick some up from Amazon by clicking here. 

Cooking Canned Goods in the Can

Since canned goods can go bad when exposed to heat, does that mean you can’t cook them in the can? Realistically, it’s fine to prepare unspoiled canned goods inside the can so long as you practice common sense.

Always remove the lid before heating. An exploding can is shrapnel, and you can get severely injured. Additionally, make sure you remove the label and any remaining glue before you put the can near the fire. You don’t want melting glue or burning paper near your food or skin.

Final Thoughts

Storing your canned foods away from heat is just common sense. You wouldn’t store regular food where it’s hot either. Heat promotes decomposition, mold growth, and cooking, none of which are suitable during food storage.

Most bad canned food is easy enough to identify. If you want more information on how to spot bad canned goods, check out this video. You’ll see seven signs of food spoilage to help you check your supplies more efficiently.

Never eat food you suspect has gone off. It’s not worth the risk to your health in an emergency.

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