How long will a can of food last?
The USDA will tell you high-acid canned foods, like tomatoes and citrus fruits will keep for up to 1½ years, and low-acid canned foods like vegetables, meat, and fish will last for up to 5 years.
But the truth is they can last much longer if stored properly and are free of any damage such as dents or bulging.
Canned foods are sterile, so they do not host bacteria, but eventually, the taste and texture of the food will deteriorate.
Case in point, a 40‐yr old can of sweet corn found aboard the sunken U.S.S. Monitor, was opened in 1974 and the nutrient content of the canned corn compared favorably with reported values, except for lower amounts of ascorbic acid. Meaning you could eat it.
Now that will not be the case for all can foods, but the point is they will last a very long time. The best way to tell if a can is bad is by looking for bulging, which would indicate the food inside is terrible. If no damage is seen, you should open it and inspect the food yourself.
I don’t recommend keeping your can food longer than five years, but if push comes to shove during the apocalypse and you find some old cans, don’t pass them by. There is a good chance they’re still edible.
Note – “Use-By” or “Best Buy” labels on foods are for consumers as a directive of the date by which the product should be eaten for the best quality, not because the item will make you sick if eaten after that date. However, after that date, product quality is likely to go down.
The “Sell-By” labels are for retailers and inform them of the date by which a product should be sold or removed from their shelves. This does not mean the product is unsafe to consume after that date.