Can You Eat Canned Soup After the Expiration Date?

Discovering forgotten items while cleaning out cupboards is common, but if you come across canned goods that have exceeded their sell-by date, are they still safe to consume?

Consuming canned soup after the expiration date is permissible since the dates indicated on canned goods are not an absolute indication of spoilage or waste, but rather a suggestion of when it is best to consume them. Although soups that have exceeded this date may taste insipid, soft, or otherwise less desirable, they are still safe to eat as long as they have not gone bad.

If you are concerned about the potential health risks of consuming expired soup, this article will provide guidance on determining whether to keep or discard your canned soup.

How Long Is Canned Soup Good For After the Expiration Date?

The expiration or use-by date of canned soup typically allows it to remain edible for approximately 2-3 years, while canned goods with lower acidity levels, like pasta and soups, may have the potential to last up to 5 years beyond their expiration date.

Nevertheless, this statement is applicable solely to cans that are intact, tightly sealed, and kept in cool and dark places.

Canned goods are designed to have a prolonged shelf life and do not come with a fixed expiration date, as they undergo a high-temperature treatment process to ensure their longevity.

The preservation of acidic and sweet foods in cans is done through a water-based canning process, which differs from pressure canning and affects the product’s shelf life.

The shorter shelf life of acidic foods compared to less acidic ones is due to these processes. To summarize, the primary differences between regular/traditional canning and pressure canning are:

  • The duration of the canning procedure
  • The force that causes the jars to close tightly
  • The quantity of additional preservatives (typically natural, like sugar or vinegar) included

The vessel used for pressure canning is a sizeable canning pot that is partially sealed and has a lid that securely closes, commonly referred to as the pressure canning pot.

The canning process involves filling the jar halfway with water, sealing it shut on the sides to ensure a tight seal, and subjecting it to high temperatures and pressure to seal the jars shut.

The process of traditional canning involves using a canning pot, which is a large pot filled halfway with water and heated on the stove.

These jars are boiled in water until they seal shut, creating a vacuum seal. While both methods create a vacuum seal, pressurized canning produces a more durable and long-lasting seal on your food.

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Will Canned Soup Go Bad?

Canned soup and other canned goods do not have a specific expiration date because they are sealed airtight during the canning process. Nevertheless, they can still spoil, but it is usually not due to their age. Instead, damage to the can or errors during the canning process are typically responsible for causing canned soups to go bad.

Improper sealing is the main reason for canned soup to spoil, especially if the silver rim remains outward for those who practice home canning.

If you hear a popping sound when pressing your finger on the lid of a jar, it means that the jar has not been sealed properly or the seal has been broken.

If the jar is unsealed immediately after being removed from the canning pot, it is safe to store it in the refrigerator, but it cannot be considered stable at room temperature and must be refrigerated promptly.

When it comes to canned goods purchased from stores, the seal is typically more reliable and durable as it is created in a factory. This strong seal has a longer lifespan than homemade canning jars, which means that the food inside is usually protected for an extended period.

How Can You Tell If Canned Soup Has Gone Bad?

When it comes to canned soup, a broken seal is often hard to detect on a metal can, but there are other factors beyond just damaged cans that need to be considered.

  • Cracks in the can 
  • Bent sides of the can 
  • Bulging sides of the can 
  • Foam in the can
  • When you open the can, there may be fizz or bubbles
  • In case the can sprays liquid on you upon opening

Any of these incidents indicate harm to the food that may cause potential damage.

If you observe any cracks, dents, or bulges in a can of soup, it indicates spoilage caused by oxidation affecting the food inside due to damage in the can or an inadequate seal during canning. It is not safe to consume canned soup with any cracks or holes.

Cross-contamination is also a worry when it comes to damaged cans of soup, as bacteria growth is unlikely unless there were issues with food handling or sanitation during the sealing process.

Yet, if there are any flaws or vulnerabilities in the can’s seal, it may permit impurities to infiltrate the canned soup and taint the entire contents.

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If a can of soup is opened and has bubbles or seems slimy, it may indicate that bacteria contaminated the can during the canning process, even if it is sealed correctly.

Consuming canned soup after the expiration date is not recommended as it may still harbor harmful bacteria from food handlers, inadequately washed ingredients, or jars that were not properly sanitized.

What Can Happen If You Eat Bad Canned Soup?

Consuming spoiled canned soup may result in foodborne illness and digestive discomfort. Signs of food poisoning consist of nausea, diarrhea, and other digestive disturbances. Nevertheless, consuming canned soup that has exceeded its sell-by date is improbable to cause any problems.

The sell-by date indicated on canned products is mainly concerned with the flavor and quality of the soup. It indicates the period when the soup is considered to be at its best taste and texture, before it begins to lose its effectiveness. Nevertheless, it does not signify a spoilage date.

As long as the can of soup is not infected with bacteria, consuming an expired can may only result in a reduced taste.

Although canned foods may contain the hazardous bacteria called botulism, which can lead to food poisoning and cause death in 5-10% of cases, it can also be a painful and disruptive experience even if it does not result in death.

How Should Canned Soup Be Stored?

To ensure that canned soup lasts for a long time without getting damaged or growing bacteria, it is recommended to store it in a cool and dark area of the house, away from any potential hazards that may cause the can to fall, break or get dented.

For preserving canned goods, it is recommended to store them in cool and dark places to prevent sudden temperature fluctuations. It is advised not to keep canned soup near water heaters, heating vents, or refrigerators as any abrupt changes in temperature can lead to spoilage of the canned goods.

It is important to ensure that the storage area is hygienic and pest-free as rodents and other small creatures can transmit various illnesses. If the cans are adequately sealed, there should be no concern about contamination.

Nevertheless, if the cans come into contact with animals, they may transmit dangerous pathogens. In case you touch the cans and do not wash your hands, you could transfer them to the soup or cooking areas.

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Do You Need To Reheat Canned Soup To Eat?

Consuming canned soup without reheating it is possible, but it may not be as satisfying in terms of flavor and consistency. To achieve optimal taste and texture, it is recommended to reheat the canned soup and serve it while still slightly warm.

Although unheated soup is not harmful to consume, its flavor and consistency are best experienced when it is heated. Meat-based soups such as chicken or beef soup may contain floating chunks of fat that make them unappetizing when cold.

Meat-based soups may have lumps of fat at the top of the can when cold, which can result in an unpleasant experience if consumed as is.

Moreover, the meat fat plays a crucial role in enhancing the flavor of the soup broth. In case you don’t heat up your soup, the broth’s taste will resemble diluted vegetables.

Consuming thick and creamy soups when cold can be very unpleasant as the fat and cream in the broth solidify, resulting in a pudding-like texture. However, warming up the soup liquefies and smoothens the fat and cream, making it more palatable.

How Long Does Open Canned Soup Last?

If you have opened a can of soup, it can be stored in the refrigerator for a maximum of five days without getting spoiled. The taste and quality of the soup may differ after five days, depending on the type of soup. Creamy soups should be consumed within three days for optimal freshness, but they are generally safe to eat for up to five days.

Soup must be refrigerated and discarded if left at room temperature for over two hours.

Bacteria thrive in room temperatures, typically defined as 45 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, making it a favorable environment for their growth. Leaving soup at room temperature can result in the accumulation of harmful bacteria, increasing the risk of food poisoning.

For storing your soup, it is recommended to use an airtight container like Tupperware or glass containers, or simply cover a sealed container or bowl with plastic wrap.

However, it is possible to store the opened canned soup as well. It is advisable to cover the top with a bag to avoid any bacterial intrusion that may lead to soup contamination.  

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