Is It OK to Store Food in Open Cans?

Urban legend has it that storing foods in open tin cans will lead to food poisoning. Nutrition Diva explains what you do (and don't) have to fear.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
May 16, 2014

Q. "When I was a kid, I was told that it was dangerous to leave an open can of food in the fridge for too long. Is this true?"

A. There's a persistent rumor that storing food in open cans puts you at risk of botulism - but this is a myth. C. botulinum is an anaerobic bacterium, meaning that it prefers an oxygen-free environment. Improper canning could allow the bacteria to multiply inside sealed cans but commercial food packers have stringent systems in place to prevent contamination. Assuming that the food was properly canned to begin with, storing an open can in the fridge doesn't put you at increased risk of food poisoning.  

Nevertheless, storing food in open cans can give the food a metallic flavor, especially acidic foods like tomato sauce or pineapple chunks. Oxygen may also oxidize the exposed metal of an open can. Finally, it's hard to seal an open can so food may dry out and/or transfer flavors to other foods in the fridge.

No matter what kind of a container its in, however, food in the fridge has a limited shelf life - so try to keep track of what's in there and have a plan for using up leftover ingredients within a few days. 

See also: 9 Tips for Reducing Food Waste


To prevent food poisoning, always follow these safe food handling tips:

  • CLEAN: Wash hands and surfaces often 
  • SEPARATE: Keep raw meat and poultry away from other foods 
  • COOK: Cook to proper temperature 
  • CHILL: Refrigerate promptly (within one to two hours)

See more food safety tips from the Partnership for Food Safety Education

Open food cans image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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