What Can Food Last Longest? The U.S. Military Scientific Study Results, Will Surprise You!

Food is one of the most essential items that any human would need, and canned foods are great because they provide a source of nutrition that lasts several years. When stocking up on canned foods for the long run, you might want to know what canned food can stay fresh for the longest period.

A strange question, but what can food last longest? Or better said, what canned food lasts the longest? Canned foods with low-acid levels, such as meats and soups, last longer than high-acid canned foods like fruits and juices. Low-acid canned foods often last between 2-5 years, while high-acid foods last around 18 to 24 months.

In a research paper on food storage, Carolyn Rude writes that some canned foods found by the US Army were in good condition after 46 years of storage. If the seal is not broken, canned foods will theoretically never get spoiled.

How Long Does Canned Foods Really Last?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), canned food may last for an indefinite period. This means that while the canned food may have specific ‘best-by’ dates, you can still eat them, years after that date.

Canned foods are popular and often used in many homes because their longevity makes cooking very convenient. Like with all food products, canned foods come with expiry dates that help keep consumers safe.

However, these expiry dates are mostly just placeholders. A lot of canned foods retain quality and taste for more than two years after their expiry date. Hence, it could take many years after the date stamped on the can before an actual decline in quality occurs.

The lifespan of unopened canned food depends on what kind of food it is and its components. A general rule of thumb that is often followed is that – the more acidic the food is, the more likely it is to expire quickly. Conversely, the less acidic the food is, the less likely it is to expire quickly.

Hence, foods with high acid levels like canned tomatoes, fruits, and juices are quicker to decline in quality than low acid foods like canned meats and soups.

Storage habits also play a massive role in the lifespan of canned food. It is often recommended that canned food be stored in a cool and dry place. The best place that comes to mind is a pantry in your kitchen.

It would be best to never put canned food in high-risk areas like above or under the sink, in damp areas, or any place exposed to low and high-temperature extremes like sunlight.

It is also best to adopt the ‘first one in, first one out rule.’ This means you should place newer canned food at the back of the shelf and older ones in front, ensuring that you eat the older ones first. Doing so allows you to eat them while they still maintain a prominent level of freshness and quality.

In their knowledge article, the USDA warns that you should never use food from containers that show botulism warnings.

Botulism is acute food poisoning caused by botulinum toxin produced in food. It is often found growing on improperly sterilized canned foods, especially meat.

Some botulism warnings that you can take note of are bulging cans, cans with leaks, loose lids, and so on. If you notice food cans that show these signs, then they are either contaminated with bacteria or their contents are spoiled and rotten.

You should note that there are two types of canned foods – commercially canned food and homemade canned food. All the information given above is regarding commercially canned food. For homemade canned food, the standards are different.

On the other hand, you should always eat homemade canned food within a year. The reason is that many homemade canned foods lack the preservatives used by commercial brands and manufacturers to ensure that canned foods are kept fresh for years.

Is It Safe To Eat Expired Canned Food?

It is safe to eat expired canned food if it is kept under proper conditions. Most canned foods do not have expiry dates. Instead, they use specific words like ‘best by’ or ‘use by.

The two prominent labels you’ll find on your canned food container are usually ‘Best By’ and ‘Use by’. Manufacturers usually use them to maintain the quality of their brand.

But what exactly are these terms?

  • “Best by” date – This is a date recommended by the manufacturer for you to use the product. According to them, it’s the best time for you to get optimum physical and sensory quality.
  • “Use by” date: This date is also recommended by the manufacturer. It refers to the final days that the product will be at its peak in terms of freshness, flavor, and texture.

Once these dates pass, you’ll begin to see a decline in the quality and freshness of the canned food. That’s why despite the long lifespan of canned foods, it is often recommended to use within a couple of years to enjoy the best quality.

You should, however, take note of the quality of the can before opening it up to eat. If your canned food has a dent or irremovable rust, it could indicate the food is spoiled. Some other apparent signs include:

  • Leaking
  • Bulging
  • A foul smell

All these are indications of the canned food being spoiled or rotten. At this point, throwing away the food is advisable rather than risking any health hazard.


Look above to learn first hand perspective on the reliability of canned foods, and draw some conclusions for yourself!

How Long Does Canned Food Last After Opening?

The period that canned food lasts after opening depends on the exact food type. For instance, canned fruits can last for up to a week, while canned fish should be eaten within two days. You should always cover and refrigerate canned foods after opening.

For high-acid canned food like fruits, unused portions may be stored in the refrigerator for about five to seven days after opening. On the other hand, for low-acid canned food like vegetables, meats, or pillory, unused portions may be stored for about three to four days. This is because low acid foods carry a higher risk of bacterial growth.

The USDA asserts that unused portions of canned food may be stored in the refrigerator. However, to preserve optimum quality and favor, USDA recommends that the unused portion be transferred to an airtight storage container, whether glass or plastic, before refrigeration.

Although commercially canned food usually contains preservatives that help reduce the risk of bacterial growth, you should take precautions to ensure you don’t leave room for your food to be contaminated.

Storing your food in an open can gives room for the iron and tin to sip into the food. The effect of iron and tin sipping into your food is that it adulterates the flavor. It could also cause adverse health effects, hence, the need for an airtight glass or plastic container.

What are the Most Popular Stockpiled Foods?

Answers given by preppers Percentage of results
Spam 20%
Chili 20%
Spaghetti Sauce 9%
Spaghetti 14%
Corned Beef Hash 14%
Canned Vegetables 9%
Beans 14%
All information has been derived from relevant forums

How Long Does Canned Meat Last?

Canned meat can last years past the dates stamped on them. Depending on the type of meat, it could last for about 2-5 years after their ‘best-by’ dates.

Meat is considered one of the most perishable foods, and as such, canned meat may not be able to last an infinite amount of years like other kinds of canned food. However, canned meat can still hold its ground years after its best dates.

Storing your canned meat in a dry and cool place is best like any other canned food. If stored correctly in a dark, dry pantry, your canned meat may even last beyond five years.

Canned meat includes various kinds, such as canned chicken, tuna, corned beef, and spam. All canned meat may last about 2-5 years past the ‘best-by’ date if unopened and safely stored.

On the other hand, if the canned meat has been opened and used, the unused portion can only be stored for about 5-10 days in the refrigerator before going bad.

It is obvious to tell when your canned meat has spoiled since there will usually be a foul smell and the meat will be discolored. Also, once you notice any significant dent on the can or black or brown color upon opening the can, it’s best to toss the meat out.

If you are in-between choosing which canned food that is worth having in reserve, look no further than SPAM. A cooked pork product that has not only been loved domestically but was a great comfort food during times of war. Have a look at this listing here, and stockpile for your home now!

How Long Do Canned Vegetables Last?

Canned vegetables, if properly stored, usually last about 1-2 years past their ‘best-by’ date. This is because of the heat process used to can vegetables and the salt used to preserve them.

Canned vegetables are easily accessible and available as a great alternative to fresh vegetables. They are also very nutritious and healthy, contrary to widespread belief. If you compare the nutritional value of canned and fresh vegetables, there’s barely any difference.

When buying canned vegetables, it is best to check for brands whose can shows that they have ‘low sodium content.’ Like any other canned food, canned vegetables should be stored appropriately to prolong their lifespan and keep them fresh until use. The best place to store them is inside a dark and dry pantry.

Once opened, any unused portion of your canned vegetable should be transferred into an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator.

Any unused portion kept inside the refrigerator can be stored for up to three days. Alternatively, you can put the unused portion into a freezer bag and put it inside a freezer. Frozen vegetables can last about two months.

It is particularly important that you do not keep an opened canned vegetable inside your refrigerator.

The reason is that when contaminated, vegetables have serious adverse effects on the human body. Therefore, while you may store other canned food inside the refrigerator despite being open, you should not take that risk with an opened canned vegetable.

It is easy to tell when your canned vegetable is spoiled or rotten. The most obvious sign is the presence of a foul odor. Also, once you notice the cab is bloated or leaking, it is best to throw the food away. The adverse health effects of eating a spoiled meal are not worth it.

When you decide to cook your canned vegetables, make sure to rinse properly under icy water. This is to cut down the amount of sodium present in your vegetable.

Also, if canned vegetables are mixed with other foods, you might be wondering about their longevity. The combination would last if the quickest expiring ingredient in the dish.

How Long Do Canned Fruits Last?

Canned fruits, like canned vegetables, last about 1-2 years after their ‘Best by’ date if stored correctly. They are usually preserved with added sugar and, as such, remain fresh for years.

There are several kinds of canned fruits ranging from peaches, pears, pineapples, etc. Personal preference does play role with choosing a particular type of fruit, keep in mind you should be looking for quality and taking some mind to quantity. Look here, for an excellent choice of pears in extra light syrup, from DEL MONTE.

Many canned fruits are usually given a ‘best-by’ date of about two years from the date of packaging. However, if stored properly, they could still last an additional 1-2  years, depending on the level of acid present in the fruit.

It is no news that fruits should be treated delicately. This is because, if contaminated or spoiled, it could pose a severe health risk. Hence, to store your canned fruit, you should put it on a shelf where the temperature is cool, and there’s little to no sunlight. You could also store your canned fruit inside a refrigerator.

One thing you should never do is freeze your canned fruits. This is because freezing makes the fruit expand and alters its texture. When unfrozen, the fruit tends to lose taste and some of its nutrients.

There’s also the big issue of the can lid gathering rust if kept in the refrigerator. The effect of this is that it invites harmful bacteria that end up contaminating the fruit.

Once a canned fruit is opened and not finished, it’s best to transfer the unused portion to an airtight storage container. Just as with canned vegetables, it is not advisable to leave opened canned fruit in a refrigerator.

The remnant in the storage container should be put in the coolest part of the refrigerator and eaten within five to seven days.

As with fresh fruits, it is easy to notice when a canned fruit has spoiled or gone sour. There’s the presence of a terrible odor, sour taste, or unusual look. Also, if the can is notably bloated, leaking, or has a broken lid, it’s best to throw it out.

Recent Posts