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Shelf Life of Canned Goods

Knowing the shelf life of canned goods is a must to ensure that the food item is fit to consume. The shelf life varies depending upon the type of food canned. Read on to know more.
Ashwini Kulkarni Sule Oct 8, 2018
Canned food items account for about 12% of the total grocery sales in the United States. Around 1500 different food items are preserved through the process of canning. Canning is done in order to make a particular food item available at any time of the year.
This is particularly true in case of certain fruits and vegetables which are available only in a particular season. Thus, canning allows the consumers to enjoy the food item of their choice in any season. Moreover, loading your refrigerator with canned foods saves unnecessary trips to the supermarket.
If you want to determine the shelf life of canned items, then you will have to look for its acid content. Low acid foods have a greater shelf life than those with higher acids in them. The shelf lives of various canned goods, according to the type of food items canned, are given in the following paragraphs.

Fish and Meat

Fish and meat are low acid foods, hence they can be stored for a long time. Canned fish and meat can be stored in the pantry in unopened cans for about 2-5 years. However, once the can is opened, store in the refrigerator and must be consumed within 3-5 days.
To avail the optimum quality and flavor, it is recommended that you consume canned food item within a year of packaging.


Fruits are high in acid content, hence it is imperative that you do not store them for more than 12 months. Hence, the recommended shelf life of fruits and vegetables is 18-24 months, by the time they undergo shipping, it reduces to 12-18 months.
Fruits and fruit juices that have surpassed their shelf life should not be consumed to avoid food poisoning.


The quality of vegetables with high acid content like tomatoes, starts declining after a year, making it unfit to consume. Other vegetables with low acid content like peas, corn, spinach, pumpkin, carrots, can be stored for 5 years.

Jams and Jellies

Jams and jellies should not be stored for more than a year, though the exact shelf life depends upon the fruits used. But, they lose their color and flavor to some extent after a year. This may not affect their taste, but it definitely renders them unappealing.

Milk and Other Dairy Products

The shelf life of canned milk depends upon its fat content. Interestingly, the more the fat content, the longer is the shelf life. Thus, the shelf life of canned milk varies between 9-15 months, depending upon its fat content.
Other dairy products, such as cheese, butter, etc., can be stored unopened for about a year in the refrigerator. Whether opened or unopened, you should never store dairy products outside the refrigerator.
The shelf life of canned goods can be enhanced if you store them in a cool and dry place, such as the refrigerator. Shelf life of home-canned food items is also more or less the same as commercially canned foods, provided you preserve them in a proper manner.
Any cans with dents, rust, etc., should be discarded straightaway without bothering to check its expiry date. Also, it is recommended that you consume canned goods within a year of packaging, irrespective of the type of food, as they tend to lose out on their nutrients after 9-12 months of packaging.