Preserved Food Safety

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on September 8, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on September 8, 2014

Preserved Foods and Food Safety

Many people use canned and preserved foods as a staple of their diet. Canned foods are easy and convenient. They may also be more accessible than fresh foods in some areas of the world. While canned foods have advantages they also have risks. Several food safety issues are associated with preservation and canning.

The Dangers of High Sodium

Canned foods often contain a tremendous amount of salt. Few bacteria thrive in high-salt environments. Therefore, high-salt foods have a longer shelf life

Unfortunately, a high-salt diet isn’t a healthy one. It’s associated with:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • kidney disease
  • congestive heart failure

Anyone trying to limit salt intake should avoid canned foods as much as possible. Some low-salt options may also be available.

Be Careful of Damaged Cans

Salt isn’t the only potential risk found in canned foods. Contaminated cans can potentially lead to serious health problems. To reduce risk, never eat food from a damaged can. Cans that have bulges in them may be full of gas-producing bacteria. These bacteria can cause the can to get “bent out of shape.” Throw out any can that looks suspicious.

Home Canning Cautions

Home canning can be a great way to preserve fresh produce and family recipes, if food is canned safely. This usually means pressure canning. High-acidity foods, such as tomatoes, can be safely canned using boiling water techniques. However, boiling is not a safe enough way to clean jars before canning low-acidity food.

Low-acidity food can sometimes be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum. This bacterium is found in soil. It’s not killed by high heat. Over time, any bacteria in a canning jar can grow and produce botulism toxin. Eating this toxin can make you very ill. It can even be fatal. 

There is no way to detect Clostridium contamination. It doesn’t cause a change in smell or taste.

More information about safe canning techniques can be found at FoodSafety.gov

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