It’s National Canned Food Month and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has compiled some tips to help consumers enjoy it safely.
Some grocery stores and restaurants that aren’t able to sell or use canned products before their “sell by” dates donate them to charities. Sometimes canned foods near or past their expiration dates are also donated. These products sometimes end up at surplus grocery stores, food-salvage stores, or other bargain outlets. These foods aren’t necessarily unsafe, according to the FDA, what matters even more than the date is how the food was handled.
Never buy cans that are swollen, have a bulging top or are leaking. This can be a sign that the bacteria that causes botulism is present.
Never buy a can that is dented along the seams that run along the top or side. A dent in these places could allow bacteria to get inside.
Never buy food in cans that have rust on the seems. Or cans that have been opened and resealed.
The “sniff test” can only rule out food. Food that smells bad is not safe to eat. But some foods that have gone bad or are tainted with bacteria, often look and smell normal.
Don’t be afraid to ask a store manager questions such as: Have the lables been changed? If they have, the new labels might not have accurate information.
Don’t buy food at a store that looks dirty or one where you can see evidence of bugs and rodents. A store that looks clean isn’t necessarily clean, but one that looks or smells dirty is food safety hazard.
Check with your state or local health department if you have concerns about a store that stocks surplus or salvaged foods. Some departments make this information available on their websites.