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Food Safety Issues/Expiration dates on caned milk products

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Question
Can you still use Cream of Coconut if it is past it's expiration date (9 months past)?  Can you still use cans of evaporated milk if the expiration date is over a year?  What about sweetened condensed milk when it is 9 months past the expiration?  

Is there a general rule when it comes to canned goods that I can go by?  Thank you for your help.

Answer
Hi Connie,

Most canned goods (except for baby food) don't really "expire" by the date printed.  The date is a "best if used by" date established by the manufacturer and it means that the product is guaranteed to be of the highest quality, if handled properly, by that date.  It is also a date to help grocery stores to make sure they are rotating stock and not selling product close to the date.

By "handled properly" I mean that it was stored in a dry location out of extreme temperature fluctuations.  For best canned food storage you want a dry, low-moisture location with a temperature of 50 to 75 degrees F.

As long as the can appears okay -- not leaking, puffed or showing any signs that something is going on inside -- it is safe to open and use.  What you may notice when you open older cans is a change in quality in the product -- a change in color, texture or flavor.  These are not unsafe, just not as high a quality of product as a younger can.  After all, nothing gets better with age but women!!!

I would suggest opening the cans and inspecting the product.  If it looks and tastes okay then I would use it.

As far as a general rule, most canned goods are of high quality for at least 2 years passed the date printed.

According to the Canned Food Alliance (www.mealtime.org) "...canned food has an almost indefinite shelf life at moderate temperatures (75 Fahrenheit and below). Canned food as old as 100 years has been found in sunken ships and it is still microbiologically safe! We don't recommend keeping canned food for 100 years, but if the can is intact, it is edible."

Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Carol

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Carol Schlitt

Expertise

I can answer questions on home food safety, sanitation and home food preservation.

Experience

I am a former Extension educator, nutrition, wellness and food safety, having retired August 1, 2010. I am a food safety instructor for the Illinois Department of Public Health, a ServSafe Instructor/Proctor and have my own company, Safe & Savory Solutions, Inc - www.safeandsavorysolution.com

Organizations
National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (Past President and current Historian), St. Louis Culinary Society.

Education/Credentials
BS - University of Illinois MS - Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

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