What happens if you eat expired canned food? 

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “What happens if you eat expired canned food?” shelf-life of canned foods, methods to store canned foods, and Botulism.

What happens if you eat expired canned food?

If you eat expired canned food, generally nothing would happen. Many canned foods are safe to consume even post their expiry. 

How can you detect whether the canned food has got spoilt?

  • Check whether the can is bulging or rusted.  Bulging of the can occurs when the microbes release gases. If the can has been damaged, there is a greater risk of it getting spoilt quickly and even way before its expiry. 
  • If the foods were present in brine or oil, check the quality of the brine or oil before consuming the food contents present in the can. If the liquid present in the can is muddy or it smells off, throw it away.
  • If while opening the can you hear a hissy sound or you find liquid immediately jumping out of the can, discard it.
  • If you observe a major discoloration in the canned food contents, throw it away.
  • As mentioned before, another sign of spoilage is the smell. If the canned food, gives off an off odor, throw it off immediately.
  • Tasting canned foods are yet another way to detect deterioration. If the taste is off, throw it away.

Which canned foods can be consumed past their expiry date?

If you store canned foods, you can consume them past their expiry date. Below is a list of certain foods that have the longest shelf-life.

  • Canned beans can last up to 5-6 years. Check for signs of bulging or denting in the can though.
  • Applesauce can last for approximately 12-15 months post its expiry. You would have to store it in a dry and cool place. You can even pour them in ice trays and store them in the freezer for extended shelf-life.
  • Honey usually comes with a best-before date and is safe to use past that date. It can generally crystallize or become cloudy but it would still be fine to use.
  • Canned meat products can last for 2-5 years if stored properly.
  • Canned milk can last for 18-24 months approximately though it can last longer if appropriate storage conditions are followed.
  • High acid canned foods would last for 12-18 months. High acid foods would include fruits, tomatoes, pickles, and pickled vegetables. Foods containing vinegar dressings also would come under high acid canned foods. 

After opening canned foods, the shelf-life would be for 5-7 days.

  • Low acid canned foods would last for at least 2-5 years in general. Low acid canned foods would include vegetables like carrots, beans, spinach, potatoes, beets, and pumpkin. Opening these foods would reduce the shelf-life to 3-5 days. 
  • If the foods have been canned at home, they can last for a year, if stored well.

How to store canned foods?

Canned foods can last for a long time if they are stored properly. Let us look at how to store canned foods.

  • It is essential to rotate canned foods. Old canned foods should be stored in the front of the fridge while the freshly bought ones can be stored in the back. This will ensure that the old ones are finished on time.
  • Only buy canned foods in bulk, if you face an emergency situation.
  • If your canned foods are stored in a pantry, you can add a can dispenser to the pantry. This could help in rotating the canned foods.
  • If you are planning to can foods at home, boil the high acid foods for at least 10-15 minutes before using them. If the canned foods have low acidity, boil them for 20-25 minutes before using them. 

Boiling can help reduce any harmful bacteria present in the food.

Other FAQs on canned foods that you might be interested in.

What is botulism and how is it linked to canned foods?

Canned foods that have low acidity can usually increase the risk of developing botulism. Botulism is caused by Clostridium Botulinum.

The symptoms of botulism are as follows:

  • Difficulty swallowing foods
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Difficulty seeing or experiencing double vision
  • Inability to breathe properly
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping or pain
  • Diarrhea

The symptoms of Botulism can appear in 18-36 hours after consuming the food containing the bacteria or the spores. 

The bacteria can be destroyed by properly boiling the canned foods and storing them in clean cans.


In this brief article, we have answered the question, “What happens if you eat expired canned food?” shelf-life of canned foods, methods to store canned foods, and Botulism.



Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.