Eating Old Soup

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This pandemic has made many of us look differently at technology and ways of learning. While not new, podcasting is one of these methods. One new podcast I enjoy is called, Risky or Not? This podcast is available for anyone who wants to listen and learn. Risky or Not? is produced by two NC State Extension Food Safety Specialists, our own Professor Ben Chapman from N.C. Cooperative Extension and Dr. Don Schaffner, from Rutgers in New Jersey.

This podcast is short with each edition about 10 minutes long. In each podcast Drs. Chapman and Schaffner address one food safety topic, usually, a question that has been asked by a listener or an Extension colleague. Usually, the question is related to food, cooking, or food preservation. They look at research and science and give their rationale for deciding if the food in question is risky or not.

One of their recent programs (#80) discussed the safety of eating an old can of soup. This program specifically talked about a man in Canada trying to raise money for a food bank by eating a fourteen-year-old can of soup. He wanted to make people aware that if you’re hungry, you might be tempted to eat this something this old. Details on the soup, the food pantry, and the “old soup challenge” can be found in the Toronto Star newspaper from the article “I’m just hungry” on November 22, 2020.

There were a couple of different points discussed in this short podcast.
One is the basic food safety question: is a fourteen-year-old can of soup safe to eat? Both professors agreed that eating the soup is not risky. They both said that if the can itself was still in good shape, meaning it wasn’t rusty, dented and the seams intact, that the food was safe to consume. They also insisted that the soup can should not be swollen or bulged at the ends.

Generally, old food is still edible, safe, and legal to sell. Dates on canned food are usually considered “best by “dates and about quality, not safety. Because it was so old, they thought this soup would have lost a lot of quality and not taste very good. Another thing to remember about canned food is that the nutritional value goes down over time. So, if someone has very little food and they are eating this food because of hunger, they may not be getting much nutrition.

It is not permitted to sell baby food beyond the expiration date. Because the nutritional value goes down as food ages, babies should not be fed food past its expiration date. This is because children get all of their nutrition from these foods and feeding them out-of-date food may lead to malnutrition.

Another issue here is hunger and food waste.

Should you give expired food to a food bank? In general, it is safe. But would people receiving food from the bank feel that they are getting old stuff others don’t want? Should people have to make a decision regarding eating expired food versus going hungry? If someone was really hungry, they may choose to eat this old soup. Some foodbanks may not accept old food, because they don’t want to make folks have to make that decision.

The professors discussed food waste. Being mindful that people are hungry, they would hate to see food go to waste just because of dates. Their recommendation is to try to consume the food you have in your pantry before it gets to that point. Don’t let it sit there until you clean it out and give way to someone else. Just because people have trouble getting food, they shouldn’t be forced to eat food that others wouldn’t eat.

Also, remember that food banks and food pantries accept donations of money to purchase needed food year-round, not just during the holidays. By-the-way, the food pantry in Canada raised over $35,000 for the food bank from this promotion.
If you’d like to hear this podcast, you can go to Risky or Not. You can sign-up to get an email or Tweet when they have new topics posted. Other recent programs include shipping pumpkin pie (#81), garlic confit (#78), and Take Out and COVID-10 (#77). All past programs are available. If you have a specific question, you can also send it to the specialists.

If you really like this podcast, are interested in food safety, and would like to hear more, these two professors also have a longer (usually about two hours) podcast called Food Safety Talk. I look forward to hearing a new posting every other week. You can check it out at Food Safety Talk.

This article was written by Cheryle Syracuse for the Brunswick Beacon FCS Column. Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science staff member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center 910-253-2610 or by email at Cheryle_Syracuse@ncsu.edu