Health: How safe and nutritious are stored canned goods?

Health: How safe and nutritious are stored canned goods?

Are you sufficiently prepared for another crisis? What might possibly be the next disaster? You might argue, we are not yet out of the mess of the current one. And this should have us all thinking about keeping stock of essential supplies. Have you got the things you need? Hopefully not guns to protect your toilet paper! More importantly, what about canned foods? How nutritious are they compared to fresh produce? How long do they last stored under the bed? And when can they kill you?

Even without a pandemic it’s prudent to have a supply of canned goods. Remember the last snowstorm, flood, or natural disaster, when it was too dangerous to get to a store or no power to cook food.

How safe are canned foods?

Compared to fresh produce, canned foods are far less likely to cause illness. The canning process used by commercial producers keeps food safe for long periods of time. Air-tight containers and the application of heat to destroy microorganisms prevent spoilage. The canning process also deactivates enzymes that cause food to break down.

How long can canned goods be stored under the bed?

First, take a good look at the can. It should not be rusted, dented, or leaking. Moreover, if the can is swollen this means harmful bacteria are present. So, if there is any doubt, dispose of the can where it cannot harm anyone. Before placing cans under the bed, write down the date you purchased them. Authorities say that the safe limit for acidic foods such as tomatoes and other fruit is 18 months. For canned vegetables, beans, meat, and poultry, two to five years. The best storage temperature is 50 to 75 degrees F.

What about the nutritional value of canned food?

A quick assumption might be they’re not as nutritious as fresh or frozen foods. But not so fast in labelling them less nutritious! Foods, when they arrive at the company don’t sit around waiting to be canned. Rather, they’re canned within hours locking in their nutrients. However, the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture says the heating of canned foods does cause a loss of vitamins C and B. Contrast this to fresh food that, after harvesting, may travel many miles under less than ideal conditions before reaching you. During that interval it also loses some nutritious value. And, with canned tomatoes and carrots, heating the can increases the release of carotenoids from the cell wall increasing their nutritional value. So, take your choice!

Look out for salt and sugar

If you cannot find a No Salt or Low Salt option, drain the liquid from the can and rinse the food in water to lower the salt content. Do the same for sugar and look for No Sugar Added or fruit that is packed in water.

Can you safely store leftovers in an opened can?

This is not a problem. But to preserve quality and flavour, it’s better to place food in a storage container with a lid.

What should you store?

It’s personal preference. But consider canned sardines and salmon high in protein and calcium. Sardines are low on the food chain, so less likely to contain contaminants such as larger fish like tuna. And don’t forget canned tomatoes and other vegetables.

One bad decision

With all this preparation for doomsday, you will get very hungry if you have forgotten a can opener. A gun might protect your toilet paper, but won’t open a can.

Dr. W. Gifford-Jones can be reached at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta reported an additional 1,854 cases of COVID-19 Thursday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories)
Red Deer has 289 active cases of COVID-19

Province now has 17,743 active cases

The Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre in Red Deer has new owners. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Cambridge Hotel in Red Deer has new ownership group

‘They’re making an investment in this iconic hotel for the future,’ says general manager Gil Vallee

The new Gasoline Alley Farmers Market officially opened on Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Gasoline Alley brewery a collaboration between brewers and farmers

Red Deer County’s newest brewery has been built from the ground up… Continue reading

RDA court
Mountie allegedly sexually assaulted by another officer begged a superior not to tell anyone

Female officer alleges she was assaulted at house party in 2012

The central zone experienced a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases Thursday, rising from 454 to 508 active cases over the past 24 hours, with 10 people in hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Alberta government makes request to Canadian Red Cross for field hospitals

The Alberta Government has examined the possibility of needing help from the… Continue reading

Dan Cochrane, senior pastor at CrossRoads Church. Contributed photo
CrossRoads Church closes its doors for two weeks after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

CrossRoads Church made the decision to cancel in-house services for two weeks… Continue reading

Defence lawyer Boris Bytensky, clockwise from top left, father of the accused Vahe Minassian, Justice Anne Malloy, and defendant Alek Minassian are shown during a murder trial conducted via Zoom videoconference, in this courtroom sketch on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. The key witness for the defence in Toronto’s van attack trial is set to testify for the fourth straight day today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Key witness for defence to testify for fourth day in van attack trial

TORONTO — The key witness for the defence in Toronto’s van attack… Continue reading

People take part in a protest called ‘Justice for Joyce’ in Montreal, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, where they demanded justice for Joyce Echaquan and an end to systemic racism. Two months after Echaquan’s death at a Joliette hospital, the head of the regional health authority that runs the hospital, Daniel Castonguay, has been removed from his post. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Head of regional health authority where Indigenous woman died removed from post

MONTREAL — Two months after the death of Joyce Echaquan in a… Continue reading

Signage for the Distress Centre in Calgary, Alta., is shown on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Distress Centre Calgary says suicide-related calls, texts and chats were up 66 per cent in October compared with the same month in 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘Dealing with a lot:’ Suicide crisis calls mount during COVID-19 pandemic

CALGARY — Hannah Storrs has needed to take more breaks than usual… Continue reading

Nancy McInerney, Kevin Martin, Olds Mayor Michael Muzychka, Chelsea Carey and MLA Nathan Cooper pose for a photo during the ticket launch for the Grand Slam of Curling Champions Cup in Olds from April 29 to May 3 in October. The event has been rescheduled for 2022. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Olds misses out on Champions Cup again, event penciled in to return in 2022

They say waiting is the hardest part for curling fans in central… Continue reading

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council squashes mask bylaw

The bylaw did not make it past first reading, after a 4-3 vote defeated the motion

Mikael Kingsbury, of Canada, trains during the FIS Freestyle World Cup skiing competition Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, in Park City, Utah. Kingsbury will miss moguls races for the first time in his World Cup career after suffering a back injury in training on Sunday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jeff Swinger
Canadian moguls star Mikael Kingsbury out four to six weeks with back injury

MONTREAL — Canada’s Mikael Kingsbury will miss moguls races for the first… Continue reading

Detail of James Wilson Morrice's "LaPlage."
James Wilson Morrice canvas outperforms at auction with more than million-dollar sale

A canvas by Montreal-born artist James Wilson Morrice exceeded expectations with a… Continue reading

Most Read