Can you eat canned food without heating it?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat canned food without heating it?”. Including this, we will also discuss canned foods and the advantages and disadvantages of using canned foods.

Can you eat canned food without heating it?

Yes, you can eat canned food without heating it. Canned foods are precooked foods and they do not need heating to cook them. These canned foods are only heated so that their taste can be enhanced and to make them tastier.

Canned foods are considered safe to eat because these foods go through a process and in this process, they are heated while cooking the food. This food is heated to a point where all the bacteria and other microorganisms present in it are destroyed. 

The foods which are less acidic and have a pH of 4.6 or above are given heat until their commercial sterility is obtained while the acidic foods which have a pH less than 4.6 are given the heat of about 100oC.

Heating can destroy all the bacteria and their spores, however, some bacterial spores can bear heating and thus they survive. These spores can not germinate until they get temperatures more than 40oC. This is also the reason why it is recommended that canned foods should be stored at room temperature or temperature below this.

During the process of heating food to can them, a vacuum is created in the sealed can due to which food present can be stored at room temperature. Also, it enables people to eat food directly from the can without heating it.

Canned foods have the expiry date on them like all other foods which are printed on the packaging. The mentioned expiry date helps people know how long the food is safe to consume. Also, if the seal of the lid is intact, there is no rusting or corrosion or leakage of the can then it is safe to consume canned food.

Storage time for canned foods:

USDA suggests that foods that are highly acidic like tomatoes and fruits can be stored for twelve to eighteen months while foods that are less acidic like meat and vegetables can be stored for two to five years.

Spoiling of canned food:

Canned food can get spoiled in cases when they are not passed through proper processing and storage procedures. When canned food is spoiled then there is a gas formation or bulging of the can occurs or there is a smell from the food. In some cases, discolouration of stored foods is also seen when the can is opened.

If the canned food is not properly heated, then it leads to the survival of the microorganisms or any damage to the can leads to microbial contamination. Both reasons can also cause spoiling of the food stored in the can and can be the source of foodborne diseases.

Some chemical and enzymatic reactions can also happen which may also result in the spoilage of canned food.

Advantages of canned food without heating:

It is often thought that the nutrition of the food which is canned is less as compared to the fresh food or in frozen form, but researches have shown that this is not true in most cases as nutrients are being retained when food is being canned.

Nutrients like proteins, carbohydrates and fats are not affected by the process of canning. Also, several other nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and vitamin K are not lost during the procedure and are retained. 

Various studies show that foods that are rich in some nutrients can maintain high nutrient levels even after the process of canning.

There are various other foods whose nutrients are enhanced when they are heated. For example, tomatoes and corn when heated they release antioxidants so when they are canned they have more antioxidants that can fight against diseases. 

Disadvantages of canned foods:

Canned foods are safe to eat until there is no contamination in them. If a person consumes spoiled canned food, then there is a high risk of getting infected by botulism. 

Botulism is a disease which is caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum which releases a special nerve toxin. This toxin attacks nerves of the body which can lead to muscle paralysis, difficulty in breathing and some cases even death. 

Food poisoning is another disease that can be caused by canned food if the food is spoiled or if the microorganism which is present in the raw form of food is not destroyed as in the case of meat.


In this article, we have answered the question “Can you eat canned food without heating it?”. We have also briefly discussed canned foods and also their advantages and disadvantages.