Can I feed this expired canned food?
November 5, 2022 6:47 PM   Subscribe

Is it safe to feed canned cat food 6 months old? 18 months old? From 2019?

I picked up a bunch of expired canned cat food from my local Buy Nothing group. The age varies. I'll throw out anything dented and none of the potential eaters have special dietary requirements.

I'm assuming the 6 month passed is fine, the 18 month passed is probably ok (?), but not sure about the cans from 2019. Definitely toss? If not unsafe but pointless to feed nutritionally (Google seems to say it degrades), could they be frozen dog Kong filler?

We don't need this food from a financial perspective and it won't become anyone's main source of nutrition. I will inspect the food inside as we go, but I haven't opened any of them yet.
posted by rawralphadawg to Pets & Animals (6 answers total)
I have (accidentally, but only discovered this after several days) fed my cat canned cat food that was over a year expired. There were no negative consequences. I think cats would generally know to avoid spoiled food, though botulism is a different story (I don't know if it occurs in cooked cat food).

I would probably treat these due dates as more rigid than typical for canned food, since the metal they're made of (at least the small cans) is much flimsier, but I wouldn't toss the 6 month stuff at least.
posted by derrinyet at 7:26 PM on November 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

Canned food, unless there's dents/swelling/etc. stays good for a very long time.

Particularly given that you say this won't be the cats' primary source of nutrition, you're fine.
posted by Candleman at 11:49 PM on November 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

Cats won't eat spoiled food, i.e. rotting or mouldy, but they will eat food and drink that can make them very sick or kill them, such as pond water that someone has put anti-freeze in. Cans don't have to be damaged for the food inside to have a problem, they could have been in very cold or very hot conditions, for example. If you'd kept them yourself for that time then you'd know, but ask yourself how they got to the Buy Nothing group in the first place, and what you know of their provenance.

If you don't need the food from a financial perspective and it's not going to be their main source of nutrition, why would you take the risk? Personally I wouldn't, any more than I wouldn't feed 3 year out of date canned food provided by a stranger to my child, but no-one can tell you for sure if it's safe or not until your cats eat it.
posted by underclocked at 12:50 AM on November 6, 2022 [5 favorites]

With the caveats that it must have been safe when canned and the packages aren't damaged canned food lasts indefinitely per the USDA. Quality will degrade over time accelerated by heat but it be safe even if inedible.
posted by Mitheral at 5:35 AM on November 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Totally safe. Canned food essentially lasts forever. I don't pay any attention to expiration dates on canned goods, especially not for pet food. I know of at least one animal-rescue organization that zealously tracks expiration dates and throws out cat food as soon as it expires. This makes me very sad.
posted by alex1965 at 5:55 AM on November 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

Some perspective as to why the food may have wound up being donated: we were buying relatively expensive canned cat food-- specifically, seafood-- in quantity. After a few months, we realized that the seafood flavors were consistently giving them bad diarrhea (all cat diarrhea is bad, yes, but constant is very bad/life threatening). We stopped feeding them the seafood types on a regular basis, saving them for special treats (because of course they were by far the most popular flavors in our house). After cautious experiments, we came to the conclusion that they can't have it at all, ever; with our different age cats & their issues it's not worth even a mild case of you-know-ugh. So we gave it to a friend with young kittens, who was thrilled to have a month's worth of food.
posted by winesong at 8:36 AM on November 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

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