Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Shelf-stable foods

From the USDA, some interesting facts about Shelf-Stable foods and cans

What does "shelf stable" mean?Foods that can be safely stored at room temperature, or "on the shelf," are called "shelf stable." These non-perishable products include jerky, country hams, canned and bottled foods, rice, pasta, flour, sugar, spices, oils, and foods processed in aseptic or retort packages and other products that do not require refrigeration until after opening.

Not all canned goods are shelf stable. Some canned food, such as some canned ham and seafood, are not safe at room temperature. These will be labeled "Keep Refrigerated."
How does canning make food shelf stable?Food is placed in airtight, vacuum-sealed containers and heat processed at 250 °F (121 °C) to destroy microorganisms and inactivates enzymes. As the food cools, a vacuum seal is formed that prevents any new bacteria from getting in. Once the container is opened, however, bacteria can enter and begin growing in the food. Any unused portions must then be refrigerated in clean containers.

Do cans contain lead?The canned food industry in the United States stopped using lead-soldered cans in 1991. In 1995, the Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule prohibiting the use of lead solder in all food cans, including imported products.

Is it safe to use rusted canned foods?Discard heavily rusted cans. Cans that are heavily rusted can have tiny holes in them, allowing bacteria to enter. Surface rust that you can remove by rubbing with your finger or a paper towel is not serious.

Is it safe to use food from dented cans?If a can containing food has a small dent, but is otherwise in good shape, the food should be safe to eat. Discard deeply dented cans. A deep dent is one that you can lay your finger into. Deep dents often have sharp points. A sharp dent on either the top or side seam can damage the seam and allow bacteria to enter the can. Discard any can with a deep dent on any seam.
If a can hisses when opened, is the food safe to eat?Some cans make a hissing sound when opened because they are vacuum-packed and the noise is a result of air pressure. This is perfectly normal. However, if a can hisses loudly or the contents spurt forcefully out of the can when opened, it may be an indication that the food is unsafe. Do not taste or use such food.

Is the dating of shelf-stable foods required by federal law?Except for infant formula and some baby food, product dating — having a "use-by," "sell-by," or "best-if-used-by" date — is not required by Federal regulations. Dating is for quality, not safety.

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