Expired food bank items shock local woman

This is one of the expired items a local woman inadvertently received from the Salvation Army food bank. - Margaret Speirs
This is one of the expired items a local woman inadvertently received from the Salvation Army food bank.
— image credit: Margaret Speirs

Checking the expiry dates on her Salvation Army food bank items gave one woman a shock Jan. 31.

Several items that the woman, who didn't want her name used, had picked up from the Salvation Army food bank had dates that expired anywhere from 2012 back to a can of soup with a date of 2000. “I was really shocked about that,” she said, adding that people often don't check dates and could get sick and think it's the flu when it's food poisoning.

“I'm grateful for all [the Salvation Army help], I really am, but these could seriously hurt someone,” she said, adding she had also used the food bank a couple of times last year.

She always checks the best-before dates and this is the first time she noticed old ones, she said, adding the other items she received that day had dates that were okay.

When the woman got home, she was putting the items in the cupboard and took out the peanut butter. “I thought 'oh goody peanut butter' and I looked at the date,” she said. Then she showed her partner.

“He's like 'what does that mean? Is it July 2010 or 2008?' “I said ‘either way, it's still old,’” she said.

She planned to take the items back to the Salvation Army.

Major Rosa Moulton of the Terrace Salvation Army said this is the first time she's seen this happen in 13 years.

“Sometimes when people are donating to the food bank, they will go through their cupboards for stuff they're not going to use,” she said.

“We don't always pay attention to cans – usually cans are okay. This is an isolated incident.”

Items with a short shelf life, such as baby food, are put out first so they can be taken and used before they expire, said Moulton.

Northern Health's Safe Food Handling Standards, which are designed for food banks, says canned food has a shelf life of about one to two years from the date of processing.

“Canning is a high-heat process that renders the food commercially sterile...commercially canned products are shelf-stable at room temperatures,” says the 55-page food standards manual.

“Canned food may retain its safety and nutritional value well beyond two years, but it may have some variation in quality, such as a change of colour and texture....

“While the can remains intact, without dents or bulges, outside contamination is prevented and the food remains sterile until opened....”

The manual says that a general rule for canned items is that low acid foods such as canned meat, fish, stew, soup, beans, corn, peas, spinach or pasta can be kept for two to five years un-opened in storage, provided that the can has not been damaged or corroded.

It also says that high acid canned foods, such as juices, fruit, pickles, sauerkraut, tomato soup and foods in vinegar can be kept for 12 to 18 months in storage, also provided the can hasn't been damaged or corroded.

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