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Home and Farm Food Preservation
Chapter VI - Storage and Spoiling of Canned Foods


Canned foods should be stored under proper conditions in order that they shall keep to the best advantage.

A knowledge of the causes and results of the spoiling of canned goods is of great importance.

24. Storage of Canned Foods. If intended for market, canned fruits, vegetables, and meats should be stored a month or more to be certain that all goods marketed are in sound condition. A cool dark storage room is best for permanent storage, while a warm room is best if it is desired to ascertain whether the material will keep. Warm temperatures cause rapid growth of the microorganisms causing spoiling.

Fruits in jars will retain their color better if the jars are wrapped in paper to exclude the light.

The storeroom must be dry to prevent molding of jars and rusting of cans. Freezing and thawing injures the flavor and texture of canned goods; therefore, the storage room should be kept above the freezing point.

25. Spoiling of Canned FoodsóBotulinus Poisoning. As stated in previous chapters, spoiling is due to the growth of microorganisms.

Fruits, because of their composition, are spoiled by molds or yeast. The spoiling of jars or cans of fruits usually means imperfect sealing and leaky containers, into which yeasts or molds gain access after sterilization. As the cans or jars cool after sterilization the contents contract, forming a vacuum, through which air with mold and yeast cells is drawn if the container has a small leak.

The products formed in a spoijed can or jar of fruit are alcohol and carbon dioxide from fermentation of the sugar. No poisonous compounds are formed. The carbon dioxide gas will cause the jar or can to burst if there is no other way for it to escape.

Vegetables are spoiled most commonly after sterilization by spore-bearing bacteria not killed during sterilization. Corn, peas, and asparagus are difficult to sterilize and often develop growths of various resistant bacteria. Vegetables are also spoiled by bacteria gaining entrance through leaks after sterilization. In these cases, the bacteria are usually of the lactic acid non-spore bearing type, in contrast to the non-acid forming spore bearers met with in imperfectly sterilized cans of vegetables.

Usually the products of decomposition in vegetables are harmless, although often vile in taste and odor. Occasionally, however, botulinus bacilli spores. will be present and survive the heating process. These develop and produce a very violent poison. Many fatal cases have come to the notice of state boards of health, where death was caused by the use of imperfectly sterilized corn, peas, or string beans. The poison is so powerful that a single grain of corn from a can heavily infected with botulinus will cause death.

The presence of botulinus is hard to detect. Usually a rancid odor will be noticed and gas pressure normally develops, but the flavor may not be objectionable.

The poison is destroyed by heating the vegetables to boiling for half an hour after taking from the can. Most fatal cases have resulted where the vegetables have been used from the can or jar for salads, etc., without cooking thoroughly before serving.

Suspected vegetables should not be fed to chickens or animals without thorough boiling because the poison is fatal to animals as well as to human beings.

The cases of poisoning have occurred where vegetables have been canned by the hot-pack method without sterilization in the can. Where thorough sterilization by any one of the methods given in paragraph 21 is employed there is no danger from botulinus. Tomatoes do not develop botulinus. Other vegetables do.

Meats spoil in ways similar to those noted for vegetables and there is danger from botulinus poisoning unless the meats are thoroughly sterilized. Fish and other marine products are especially difficult to sterilize and therefore must be canned with great care. Dr. Dickson of Stanford has done a great deal of work on the occurrence of botulinus in food products, especially in canned vegetables.


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