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Can I refrigerate canned food?

The answer is – YES you CAN!

Until the mid 20th century, the cans that contained canned foods were made wholly of tin, which could leach into food after the can was opened. Modern cans, however, are made of a combination metal called tinplate steel or aluminum, which does not contaminate food, according to Britain’s Food Standards Agency.
By Emily Beach, eHow Contributor

Unopened Cans

The food in an unopened can has been specially processed or pasteurized to be stored in the can. It was designed to store safely without the need for refrigeration, though these cans may have a “best-before” or “use-by” date. With “best-before” dates, the product can be safely consumed even after the date, though the flavor and quality will be best before the posted date. If the can has a “use-by” date, the food may be perishable and should not be consumed after the given date.

As long as a can is unopened, it is safe to store it in the refrigerator for short periods of time. This is often done to chill canned juice or fruit. The can should not be left in the refrigerator in the long-term because it can develop condensation that can rust the can. Once the can has rusted, the contents are no longer considered pasteurized or safely processed, and the food should not be consumed.

Opened Cans

As soon as a can has been opened, the contents are subject to bacteria and other contaminants. The food should be consumed immediately, or stored in a refrigerator to keep the temperature low and prevent contamination. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and North Dakota State University, it is safe to store any type of opened canned good in the refrigerator. The can should be covered with a lid foil, or plastic wrap to minimize the risk of contamination, but there is little to no risk of illness from keeping the food in the can. According to the USDA, all foods can be safely stored in an open can in the refrigerator for one to two days.


There is a common myth that storing canned food in the refrigerator can lead to illness, but there is no scientific proof to back up the myth. Today’s cans are made from tin or aluminum. When these materials are exposed to acidic foods in combination with oxygen in the air, they can oxidize or corrode. This does not contaminate the food, but does create a metallic or “tinny” taste that can be unappealing to consumers. Because of this oxidation process, highly acidic foods like juices, tomato products or pickled fruits and vegetables should not be stored in open cans in the refrigerator. They should be transferred to glass or plastic storage containers to avoid the metallic taste and possible discoloration.

2 Responses to “Can I refrigerate canned food?”

  1. Brandon William McCann August 22, 2013 at 3:41 am #

    I don’t know because twice now at work we have i believe maumee valley vending company, MVVC, it was dole tropical fruit, i believe, canned unopened absolutely rust free, well before date on can, and in the refrigerator. Twice in a row now I have eaten this and an hour or so later vomited then fine shortly after. So I’m not sure, I have to problems with acid nor stomach problems….and it was the fruit andyellow stomach acid… Any idea?

  2. Jay November 3, 2013 at 8:53 am #

    Poorly written article. You write “according to Britain’s Food Standards Agency” and then “according to the USDA” but I don’t see any citations.

    If you didn’t put any citations, then this article is a sham

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