You’re feeling a crisp chill as you’re sneaking outside into the cold dark night. Not a soul in sight, you’re out there all by yourself. The wind grabs a couple of reddish leaves, lifts them up and lets go of them in a matter of seconds. The rustling of the leaves tumbling across the sidewalk is the only thing you hear. You slowly start walking, paranoidly looking from left to right, often glancing back over your shoulders just to be safe for once. It doesn’t take too long before you reach your destination: the local convenience store – or more precisely what’s left of it. Ever since the zombie apocalypse hit the city a few long months ago, nothing has remained the same.
So, there you are, carefully stepping into the ruins of what once was Gary’s corner store. Putting one foot in front of the other, you’re trying to navigate around the shattered pieces of glass that pave the way of the store’s entrance. There’s gotta be food in here somewhere you think to yourself as you’re searching through the aisles. Yet you find nothing but dust. But there’s still hope. You catch the moonlight’s reflection in a shiny metal object just across the room – a can of beans as it turns out. You can’t believe your luck as you turn around the can which contains probably the most nutritious meal, you’ve had in a while. Upon rotating the can one final time, you recognize there’s something written on the bottom: “Best before 05/03/19”. That’s more than two months ago. Damn it, you think, had I only read that article on Cans for Life back then. I’d have known if the beans were still good. So, you walk back out of the store and probably get eaten by some equally hungry undead person. Yikes, that’s a tough break.
Frozen Is Good, Canned Is Better
Obviously the zombie apocalypse is not real (yet). And obviously canned food is amazing for a plethora of reasons that are not zombie-related. Not only is it really affordable and basically fresher than fresh food, it also comes with the amazing advantage that it keeps its edibility longer than any other kind of food.
There are many different methods of elongating the shelf life of food products. You can get your food fresh, frozen, canned or loaded with preservatives. As we’re looking to predominantly consume food as naturally as possible, let’s forget that chemically preserved food exists for a second.
The other three all come with certain pros and cons. Fresh food is obviously the least processed of the three, but it goes bad the fastest by far. Frozen food, for the biggest part, surprisingly is fresher than fresh food, as the produce is shock-frosted right after being harvested. So unless you’re buying your veggies straight from your local farmer, chances are that the time that’s passed between harvest and consumption is actually shorter when you use frozen food. But even the shelf life of frozen foods comes with a limitation. It usually keeps good for a couple of months but the means of packaging is not optimal for a really, really long time. It’s also the most energy-consuming way to store food as freezers usually use a lot of power.
Canned Food Is Safe to Eat For a LONG Time
Canned food doesn’t carry these kinds of obstacles – admittedly, canning food at home is way harder than freezing, but most people do neither, so let’s just focus on store-bought cans.
Coming back to the initial problem of how long canned food keeps good, we can confidently answer: very long! Microbiologists claim that food stored in cans can be eaten well past its best before date. And that date usually goes up to years after canning. The secret to its long life lies in the canning process itself. The food is being heated to kill off all of the bacteria and then sealed into a container that keeps out both, light and air. Those are the two main antagonists that make anything food-related go bad quickly. Cans are the only kind of packaging that efficiently blocks both from entering.
The only thing, you’ll have to make sure of when storing cans is that you keep them in a dark place and that they are impeccable on the outside, meaning no dents or cracks whatsoever. As long as you follow these tiny little instructions, you’ll have no problems with storing food for the next zombie apocalypse or hung-over holiday at the end of the month when you’re running low on money.
In 1974, two archeologists excavated a steam boat from the Missouri River. On it were food rations for 16 cities in the frontier area, lots of cans among them. One was opened and tested by the National Food Processors Association saying that it was safe to eat as there was no microbial growth. The ship those cans were carried on, sunk in 1865.
So whenever you’re unsure about a can of food, just check if it is physically sound and if still unsure, use your eyes and smell if it’s still good to eat. There’s a reason, bad food tastes and smells bad. 😉
What’s the longest overdue can of food that you’ve ever eaten? Tell us in the comments below!