Canned food saves refrigerator space, makes a variety of foods available to us at all times of year, and is a great choice for donating around the holidays or any time of year. It is one of the safest ways to preserve food, but when the canning is done improperly the results can be potentially fatal food poisoning in the form of botulism. Home canning is most often to blame, but commercial canning operations sometimes make dangerous mistakes too.
Home Canning Safety
Home canning is a wonderful way to preserve homegrown produce and share it with friends and family. Whether you plan on serving home canned foods as part of your holiday meals or giving them away as gifts, make sure that you are following the most current safe canning practices. Canning is a tradition often passed down through the generations, and the methods you are using may be out of date.
Check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) guide to home canning, to find the best method and equipment for the type of food you will be canning.
Donating Canned Goods
If you are planning to donate canned goods this holiday season, or any time of year, check the rules provided by the organization to which you will be making your donation. They vary. Most places do not accept home canned goods because of the potential safety risk.
If you have expired canned goods hanging around, find out if you can donate them instead of tossing them out. Some food pantries do not accept expired canned goods, but many will gladly accept them as long as they are within six months of the expiration date.
No matter what the expiration date, never donate cans that are rusted, bulging, deeply dented, or leaking. These are all signs that the food may be spoiled or contaminated.
Checking for Recalls
Always check for recalls on your canned goods before donating or eating them, and periodically check your emergency stores, since you never know when you may be using them. You do not need to be afraid to donate canned goods, the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act is a federal law that protects you from civil and criminal liability when you donate food in good faith. But you should take the time make sure the food is as safe as possible.
Canned goods are an excellent choice for emergency preparedness. They do not require heat or precious water for preparation, and the nutritional value is pretty good. Just make sure that you rotate your stock, check for recalls, and never consume food from cans that show signs of botulism, damage, or spoilage.
If you have been harmed by contaminated canned food, please talk to an experienced food poisoning attorney right away to learn more about your rights.