I had a jar of unsweetened cinnamon-flavored applesauce in my cupboards for years. Every time I looked at it, I would think, "well, it can't be edible as it is, anymore, but maybe I could bake something with it". Finally one day, I opened it and decided that even baking with it was a risk I wasn't willing to take!

Knowing when to say when to canned food is kind of a mysterious game. What exactly do those dates stamped on these products mean?

The canned food industry prefers using "best by" dates as opposed to expiration dates, according to one industry spokesman. Most canned foods retain their high quality for two whole years after they're processed. But even long after that they remain perfectly edible, although their color or texture may change.

If a can is swollen or dented, as well as being elderly, don't even think about it, just toss it out immediately.

The big determining factors in how long canned products may last is actually the temperature at which they are stored and the acidity level of the canned food itself. That is why Spam will always outlast any canned fruit or vegetable on the planet. Go Spam!

Find more answers to your canned food questions on the Canned Food Alliance website.

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