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Food In Tin Cans

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rutineli | 00:52 Sat 21st Mar 2009 | Food & Drink
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I can recall when I was growing up in the 1950's there were no such things as 'use by' or 'sell by' dates on any types of food.
I recall that particularly with tinned food we were very confident in those days that it simply did not go bad and we always had a well stocked tin shelf in the larder for emergencies . Frequently those emergency tins would stay on the shelf for years and years but I cannot ever recal any of them ever being less than their usual quality when they were eventually opened up for use.
These days we have best before dates and use by deadlines on canned goods but do they actually indicate anything is not safe to use? I have yet to discover a tin that was bad when opened or unfit for consumption.
So who knows what all of this is all about? Just to prey on housewife fears and make them buy more and waste more?? Do tinned foods go bad??

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The canning process seeks to destroy bacteria (and fungal spores) within the product, and then seal that product within an environment to which bacteria (and fungal spores) have no access. The process is remarkably efficient in achieving its aims, but not perfect. That means that some decomposition of the food (whether by bacteria or by fungal growths, such as moulds) will eventually occur.

In general, the bacteria and fungal spores which survive the canning process (and go on to start decomposition of the food) are not those one which are dangerous to health. (e.g. salmonella will not survive canning unless there is a fault with the process). So, while the quality of the food will degrade over time, health risks remain minimal.

I've just taken a look at the cans in my kitchen cupboard. They all have 'best before' dates on them (which refer to the possible degradation of the taste and 'quality' of foods) but I can find none that have 'use by' dates (which refer to potential health risks).

Chris
There was a story in the papers last year about a couple who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. They had a whole chicken in a tin which they had been given as a wedding present. They ate it on their wedding anniversary and they said it was fine.

I'd say that unless the tin is damaged in any way, there is no need for "best before" dates.
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Many thanks to Chris and Mrs "O" for your extremely informative answers. Of course I did have suspicions that the case was in keeping with your replies, in that I am not yet dead , having been noshing merrily away for nearly 60 years without thinking to ask anyone and surviving the oversight in fine fettle.
Nonetheless your erudition has encouraged me to tackle some of the darker corners of my larder in the face of the Credit Crunch with greater enthusiasm than might otherwise have been the case. - rutineli
rutineli-have you opened a 50 year old tin yet? I think that the food inside a tin would take many years to deteriorate so that unless you were testing it out (by deliberately keeping a tin of food for many years), the tin would not be around that long for the food inside it to go off.

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Food In Tin Cans

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