Frequently Asked Questions

Is canned food as nutritious as fresh and frozen food?

A study conducted by the University of California – Davis found that fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables each contain important nutrients and contribute to a healthy diet, and exclusively recommending one form of fruits or vegetables over another ignores the benefits that each form provides.  Results of the study also showed that by the time food is consumed, fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables may be nutritionally similar. In fact, due to the heat from the cooking process, some canned foods are actually more nutritious than their fresh and frozen counterparts, such as tomatoes, pumpkin, corn, carrots, spinach and peaches. 

How do I read the printed ink codes on my canned foods?

You may have always wondered “What are all of these printed ink codes on the end of my cans?” Food cans may display several variable-printed codes on the can ends (bottom & top) which are primarily a packaging industry standard to provide product traceability from the food producer to your cupboard. 

Codes on canned foods provide security to the consumer, retailer, food producer, and the can manufacturer. There are very few government mandated coding requirement on food cans, however, all food companies in the USA are required to follow a strict Food Safety Plan which includes the need for continuous monitoring of food safety functions which usually include these coding traceability elements. 

The codes you see on the top/bottom of a food can dictate many tracing items which potentially include Plant Location, Production Line within that Plant, Lot Codes Related to the Food Producers Food Safety Scheme, Supplier of Food Ingredients, Country of Origin of Food Ingredients, Production Date, and Possibly the Can Manufacturer. 

Rest assured, there is no time in the history of food production that your food is safer than today. These codes provide the means to track and continually provide improvements so the industry can deliver the freshest and safest food products in the world. You CAN trust in the Canning Industry!

Does canned food have expiration dates?

“Expiration” dates are rarely found on canned food. The codes vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and usually include coding for time and place of canning. Many canned products now have a “for best quality use by” date stamped on the top or bottom of the can. The general rule of thumb is that canned food has a shelf life of at least two years from the date of purchase. For questions about a specific product, most manufacturers offer a toll-free number to call for questions about canned food expiration dates.

How long does canned food remain edible and retain its nutritional content after it is purchased?

Canned food has a shelf life of at least two years from the date of processing. Canned food retains its safety and nutritional value well beyond two years, but it may have some variation in quality, such as a change of color and texture. In fact, canned food has an almost indefinite shelf life at moderate temperatures (75° Fahrenheit and below). Canned food as old as 100 years has been found in sunken ships and it is still microbiologically safe! We don’t recommend keeping canned food for 100 years, but if the can is intact, it is edible. Rust or dents do not affect the contents of the can as long as the can does not leak. If the can is leaking, however, or if the ends are bulged, the food should not be used.

Can canned food be heated in its container?

Yes. If it is necessary to heat canned food in the container, the top must be removed to prevent pressure build-up. The opened container may be covered loosely with a piece of aluminum foil. Then place the can in a saucepan of hot water and simmer on the stove top. Food cans should never be placed in a microwave for heating. To heat canned food in the microwave, open the can and place the contents in a microwave-safe container.

Is it safe to use cans as containers for cooking or baking foods other than the cans original contents?

We do not recommend cooking or baking in empty, repurposed cans since the intense, prolonged heat of a stove or oven can compromise the integrity of the can. 

Does damage to the outside of the can indicate damage to the food?

Not necessarily, but some good judgment should be used. Rust or dents do not affect the contents of the can as long as the can does not leak. If the can is leaking, however, or if the ends are bulged, the food should not be used. These containers should be returned unopened to the place of purchase.

Can you refrigerate canned food after use?

Yes. Unused portions of canned food can be refrigerated after use, but should be removed from the can and placed in storage containers first, to preserve its flavor.

Why are some canned foods so high in sodium?

Not all canned foods have added salt and many are, and always have been, low in sodium or are available in reduced-sodium versions. Salt and other sodium-containing compounds have several purposes in packaged foods, including canned foods, such as to enhance flavor and improve texture. Today there are more great-tasting, nutritious canned foods in no-salt-added, low sodium, and reduced-sodium options than ever before.  For people looking to reduce sodium in their diet, draining the liquid and rinsing canned beans and vegetables with water can reduce sodium even further. For example, research shows rinsing and draining canned beans reduces sodium content per serving by 41%. Draining alone resulted in a 36% sodium decrease. [R. Duyff, J. Mount, J. Jones, J of Culinary Sci and Tech, Vol 9, Issue 2, 2011]. To compare, read the nutrition facts on food labels to find the sodium in a single serving or review our tips for reducing sodium fact sheet here.

Bottom line is, less than 1% of sodium in the American diet comes from all vegetables, whether they are canned, fresh or frozen. So eat your veggies!

Is Bisphenol A present in canned foods and is it dangerous?

The use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in the protective linings of some metal food containers and a variety of other consumer products is the result of more than 60 years of research to develop the safest and most effective food can linings.  Linings of canned foods serve an important role, creating a barrier between the metal and the food contained inside to maintain the safety, quality and nutritional value of these products. BPA is also used in a variety of other consumer products.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute of Health are conducting ongoing scientific assessments to ensure the continued safe use of BPA in food packaging. Based on FDA’s ongoing safety review of scientific evidence, the available information continues to support the safety of BPA for the currently approved uses in food containers and packaging.  It is also worth noting, due to consumer interest many companies are transitioning to, or have already moved to new can coatings that do not contain BPA.

Is canned food considered 'processed food'?

According to the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, “food processing is any deliberate change in a food that occurs before it’s available for us to eat.” So yes, canned food is considered processed food, as are frozen vegetables, roasted nuts, tomato sauce, fruit jam and bagged salad greens, just to name a few other examples. Canned foods, including fruits, vegetables, beans and tomatoes, are considered minimally processed. Canning helps preserve and enhance nutrients and freshness of foods at their peak. This provides us access to nutritious, convenient, safe and affordable foods year-round. 

What is the liquid in canned food? Is draining it wasteful?

During the canning process, water is added to foods such as fruits and vegetables to help create the vacuum necessary for safe pressure-heating. Sometimes fruit juice is added to canned fruit. This process ensures foods are safe for distribution, sale and consumption, but retain the greatest flavor and nutrition. And, like the home canning process, no preservatives are required, though sometimes manufactures add salt to help enhance the taste and quality of canned foods.

Know too that you can drain the liquid and still get the nutrients, and often at a lower cost compared to fresh or frozen varieties.   Cost-per-nutrient research has found that tomatoes, for example, cost 60 percent less than fresh tomatoes to get the same amount of fiber when purchase price, waste and preparation time are considered. 

If sodium intake is a concern for you or your family, you can look for “no salt added” or “low sodium” canned foods. You also can drain and rinse canned beans and vegetables to reduce sodium content. Research shows rinsing and draining canned beans reduces sodium content per serving by 41%. Draining alone results in a 36% sodium decrease.

Source: R. Duyff, J. Mount, J. Jones. J of Culinary Science and Technology, Vol 9, Issue 2; 2011.