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Canned food is a safe and nutritious addition to any larder

May 2020

illustration of various canned goods

For many of us, shopping during the last few weeks has been a tad challenging. Because our weekly shopping routines have been changed, it makes sense that so many people have been stocking up as best they can.

Interestingly, along with frozen foods, supermarkets have seen a surge in sales of canned food.

Tinned food was the name more usually given in the days of our childhood. Tins of baked beans of course, but also a huge range of tinned foods from spaghetti to green vegetables, from tinned spam to tinned corned beef. Tinned Fray Bentos corned beef used to be as familiar a name as Cadbury’s chocolate.

In our grandparents’ days, tinned food was not as safe as it is today. Before the mid 1950s cans were often made of steel. This however could react with the food, so the steel was coated inside, usually with tinplate, to stop this happening.  That was why in those days it was really important not to eat anything from a tin that was dented or damaged as the smooth inside coating might have been broken and the reaction with the metal could have ruined the food.

Since the mid 1950s aluminium cans, which do not rust, started being introduced and this greatly reduced the fear of opening a can and finding the food had gone off.

Today, with modern processes, canning is still a really good way to preserve food. The food is prepared and sometimes cooked and then sealed in the cans. The cans are then specially heated to kill harmful bacteria and prevent spoilage.  Today, modern canned food can last for as long as a year or even up to five years.

Even better, research shows canned food doesn’t lose much of its nutrients during the process. Proteins, carbohydrates and fat ae unaffected by being canned. Most minerals and fat soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and K, are also retained.  Canning can damage certain vitamins however such as vitamins C and B because they ae especially sensitive to heat.

One interesting aspect is that the canning process can actually improve certain foods. For instance with tomatoes, the heating lifts their levels of antioxidants.

The general consensus is that canned foods can provide good levels of nutrient levels and play a successful part in any diet.

While modern canning is generally very safe, do not use a can of food if it is bulging out at the top. This could indicate that there may have been problems in the canning process, perhaps the can was not heated sufficiently. Either way bacterial activity in the food inside can produce gas and this can cause the can of food to bulge at the ends.  Slight denting of a can is not a problem; but again if a can is badly damaged do not eat the food as its sterility might have been lost.

Once canned food is opened, it is best not to store it in the can in the refrigerator as the air could help a reaction of the food in the tin. Instead just tip it out and store it in a bowl or jar as normal.

Canned foods are an excellent way to store items for longer periods and right now, they can provide a very useful back up when shopping is difficult.

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