Canned food

Canned food

Canning is one of the safest and wide spread methods of preserving food. The process was developed in 1810 by Nicolas Appert. At the time it was a French military discovery and it was used for army which required reliable ways of storing food for long periods of time. During canning jars or cans are heated to the temperature that is high enough to destroy the bacteria that are able to cause the spoilage of the food and consequently prevent food poising. The container also prevents recontamination of the food with those bacteria.

Nowadays it is hard to imagine that canned foods were created for army, because they are used so widely in everyday life. The canning industry is one of the largest industries in North America and the businesses keep growing. Despite the popularity of canned foods, there are still issues around them and several points have to be considered in relation to canned food.

Choosing canned foods
Choosing canned food is the easiest part of the process. Packaging can tell you a lot. If the packaging has dents, leaks of bulging lids, it is likely that the product is spoiled. Rust on the can should be avoided as well, because it might destroy the container and allow air or harmful bacteria to enter. Try to avoid the cans that look dirty and dusty or have torn labels, because this meant that the can have been on a shelf for quite a while.

Storage
Most food manufacturers recommend to store canned foods for no longer than 1 year, however the period may differ depending on the type of food. For example, foods that have high acidity (canned tomatoes and fruits) should be used within 18 month, while foods with lower acidity can be stored for as long as 2-5 years. Unlike majority of products, canned foods do not require the fixed “best before” date. Nevertheless, one can still find numbers on the top of the can. Most of the cans have a date of manufacture there.

In order to preserve the quality of canned food, it is best to store them in a cool and dry place. When stocking your food cupboard, try to bring older cans to the front and newer purchases to the back.

Most canned or jarred foods will need to be kept in a refrigerator after they are opened, while items like peanut butter, spices and vinegar will be fine in your pantry. One should also follow the storage instructions that are on the label.

Nutritional value
The nutritional value is of the issues surrounding canned foods. There is no definite answer as to whether canned foods differ considerably from the fresh ones. The Dietary Guidelines generally do not make a distinction between fresh, frozen and canned foods, claiming that canned foods contain the same essential nutrients as fresh foods. Indeed, several university studies support the idea that canned fruits and vegetables provide as much dietary fibre and nutrients as the fresh ones. Moreover, some studies suggest that canned corn, for instance, may be healthier than the corn on the cob, because the heat processing increases activity of antioxidants and the level of lutein (phytochemical that may help to preserve eyesight). Same goes for lycopene – a carotenoid that is found in tomatoes and gives them the bright red colour. Lycopene is believed to have a role in preventing heart disease and some types of cancer. Canned tomatoes are thought be a good source of lycopene, because heating that is used during the process of canning makes lycopene more available to one’s body.

It should be said that the process of canning has improved greatly throughout recent years and the quality of canned foods improved as well. Many of them do seem to retain a large portion of nutritional value, but they can never take the place of real food and should not be used as such.

Dangers
In addition, there are still certain dangers that are closely linked to canned foods. There is always a chance of migration of substances from the can into the product itself. Such toxic substance as lead can cause lead poisoning. In addition, some canned foods can be a source of dietary salt and nearly everybody is aware that increased salt intake may lead to health problems including blood pressure. Finally, canned food can become a home for C. Botulinum spores which cause a rare but serious illness called botulism.

In conclusion, it is clear that canned foods remain fresh for much longer than fresh food, retain a large portion of the essential nutrients and they tend to be cheaper that the canned fruits. Nevertheless, there are risks related to canned food. In order to make an informed and an educated decision related to canned food, one has to consider not only advantages, but also disadvantages of canning process and canned foods.

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