Packaged Food Science

Why Canned Foods May Be More Nutritious Than The Fresh Stuff

When it comes to comparing fresh food versus canned food, one of the starkest differences between the two has to be shelf life, or how long a product can last. Most produce and meats won’t stay fresh more than a couple of days, even in the fridge or after being cooked. They’ll begin to lose flavors, change texture, and eventually spoil. Canned food, on the other hand, won’t change at all over the course of months, or in some cases, even years.

Of course, this leaves the question of how canned goods can keep for as long as they do without going bad. This has led to a number of misconceptions about the entire industry, including that they use a plethora of preservatives (not really) and are less healthy than their fresh counterparts (in some cases, canned food may actually be healthier).

Once you understand how canning works, though, it may open your eyes as to how the shelf-stable food is not only good to eat months after its made, but also why it may be, in some cases, a more nutritious option than consuming fresh food.

The History and Science of Canning

The process of canning was first invented in the early 1800s by French chef and candymaker Nicolas Appert. He developed canning as a way to preserve food using heat that won a prize from Napoleon Bonaparte, who was looking for a novel way to feed his troops. Appert first started by sealing foods in glass jars with wax. This was later shifted to tin cans, the basis of modern canning operations today.

Appert’s process was a form of sterilization, only instead of using chemicals (which is what many people recognize it as today), he was using heat to kill bacteria. This was similar to what Louis Pasteur did in 1864 when he invented the pasteurization process used in milk and juices, but Pasteur was looking to just kill pathogens, or disease-causing microbes. Other bacteria, including those that didn’t need oxygen (called anaerobes), could still grow and multiply over time.

Where Appert’s process differed was in that he used an airtight environment, as well as a greater amount of heat. This combination meant that bacteria and other spoilage microbes inside would be killed and unable to regrow. One of the biggest threats came from anaerobic bacteria that produce heat-resistant spores. The type of sterilization in canning uses enough heat to prevent these spores from ever having the chance to grow and multiply.

All of this happened without the need for preservatives that go into products like packaged cereals and other shelf-stable foods. While some canned products contain salt, sugar, or acidic products like vinegar, these are meant more for flavor, color, and texture than they are for the preservation properties they often have in foods.

Sterilization does also cook the food inside, meaning that textures will change as a result.

How Canning Changes Food

Today, canning has evolved to utilize more sturdy packaging and scientifically-controlled heat. Food processors use enough heat at an appropriate time needed to kill the requisite bacteria or spoilage organism in question. Scientists target specific microbes for each food based on its acidity, moisture content, the heat resistance of the target microbe, and other factors.

More than just keeping bacteria from spoiling food over months, though, canning has other benefits. One of the biggest is that food preserved by canning is often sterilized straight from being harvested. Over time, the nutritional and sensory qualities of food decrease over time when exposed to a normal environment. This means that technically, a peach that’s been on the shelf for a couple weeks has less available nutrients, flavor, and color than one picked fresh from the tree. Compounds naturally break down over time, so this is natural.

In canning, however, food is preserved much closer to the harvest point, and are subject conditions (including that airtight seal) that prevent degradation from occurring as fast. Thus, nutrients may be more available from a canned food compared to the fresh version in grocery stores. That’s not true for all nutrients, however. Some water-soluble nutrients like Vitamin C and some B vitamins, leach into water surrounding the food or are destroyed by heat while the food is sterilized. You’ll see a decline in these nutrients overall when cooking, regardless of process.

The next time you’re looking at purchasing canned food and judge it for being “lower quality,” as its often perceived, you might want to keep the above in mind. More often than not, canned food is just as nutritious as the fresh variety and can last a lot longer without the need for preservatives.

Information used in this article was obtained from: 

Fellows, P. J. (2009). Food Processing Technology: Principles and Practices, 3rd Edition. Cambridge: Woodhead.

Grocery News Packaged Food Products

Your Can Of ‘San Marzano Tomatoes’ Is Probably Fake

Photo: Amazon

If you’ve bought a can of San Marzano tomatoes recently from a grocery store, there’s a good chance that the tomatoes you bought aren’t the real deal.

San Marzanos are basically the only recognized name in canned tomato products, and are highly valued for their quality and flavor. In fact, Taste reports that authentic Napoletana pizza must use San Marzanos to be considered legit, and that the cans even require a special “DOP” label to be sold as San Marzano tomatoes in Italy. That label means that the tomatoes have met all of the growing and processing criteria necessary to be called a San Marzano (which includes being grown in the volcanic soils of Mt. Vesuvius, for example).

Unfortunately, those same labeling regulations do not apply in the United States. Anybody can slap a DOP label onto a can of tomatoes to make it look like they’re San Marzano, and many companies do that to throw customers off and deceitfully elevate their selling prices. One importing company has been told by the president of the San Marzano labeling consortium in Italy that about 95% of the products called “San Marzano” tomatoes in the United States are actually knock-offs. That percentage is a low-ball estimate, as well, meaning an even higher percentage of San Marzano tomato products on U.S. shelves could be fakes.

Fortunately, there are ways to spot a fake San Marzano can out there. San Marzanos can only be sold as whole or filleted, peeled, and canned to be certified. Crushed or diced tomatoes are not legitimate certified products. You should also be on the lookout for a DOP seal and a seal from the labeling consortium, along with a certification number. Finally, true San Marzano tomatoes don’t even have the name “San” on the label, and are instead labeled as “Pomodoro S. Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino.” Sounds like a mouthful, but it’s a great way to differentiate from the industrial giants that use the name to throw consumers off.

If you really want to use the high-quality San Marzano tomatoes when cooking, follow those guidelines, and you should be good to go.


Popular Foods Exposed and Repackaged in Clear Glass Bottles


Some processed foods we know and love do not necessarily look as appealing as they taste.

Tom Davie, an Oklahoma City-based mixed-media artist, decided to turn this concept into “Bottled Food” — a series of usually concealed popular food items that have been repackaged into transparent glass bottles. The repackaged foods  expose the  unattractive textures and colors found behind the facade of cardboard boxes and solid cans.

The food brands Davie features includes Trix cereal, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Bush’s Baked Beans and Armour’s Potted Meat. While the Trix isn’t so bad, we’re not too sure about the potted meat.



Picthx Tom Davie


Check Out This Beautifully Disgusting 12-course Meal in a Can


When it comes to canned food, let’s be real, in most cases we’re just deciding between one set of flavors and the next. That’s where designer Chris Godfrey comes in and his project ‘All in One,’ a design he put together that incorporates 12 different courses of a meal into one convenient can.

The design lends Godfrey’s commentary on canned food and the gimmicks that come along with differentiating one product from the next. Here’s what he has to say on the project:

Contemporary culture means on every trip into town; you’re bombarded with gimmicks galore. Gimmicks often diminish their products to turn a profit; downgrading on the content but selling you something thats ‘50% more’. The All in One 12 course meal offers the average Joe; the chance to dine like royalty without the washing up.

While the can only exists in design form, Godfrey took care to make each layer truly believable. Here’s what each layer consists of:

  1. A selection of local cheeses with sourdough bread
  2. Pickled Kobe beef with charred strawberry
  3. Ricotta ravioli with a soft egg yolk
  4. Shitake mushroom topped with filled peppers
  5. Halibut poached in truffle butter in a coconut crepe
  6. Risotto foraged ramps, prosciutto and fresh parmesan
  7. French onion soup with fresh thyme and gruyere cheese
  8. Roast pork belly and celeriac root puree
  9. Palate cleanser, pear ginger juice
  10. Rib eye steak with grilled mustard greens
  11. Crack pie with milk ice cream on a vanilla tuile
  12. French canele with a malt barley and hazelnut latte




Packaged Food

Lonely, Lazy, or Stranded in the Woods? Christmas Dinner in a Can!

This wholesome meal of turkey casserole, winter vegetables, sausage, stuffing, and cranberry sauce sounds great until you discover that it comes in a can that magically heats itself. I’m sure the “totally safe exothermic reaction” that ‘cooks’ the ‘food’ isn’t actually harmful, but I’m going to stay far away from this meal long after the 12 minutes it takes to heat up. The Firebox store claims that HotCans are “nutritionally balanced” and “really rather delish,” but something tells me they aren’t much more than a sodium mash that would put a bag of Fritos to shame.

There are suspiciously few photos of the contents of the can and the one gif they provide makes it look like soup. They also have 4 additional flavors for those looking to enjoy magic canned food year round: Bangers & Beanz, Vegetable Chilli, Chicken Curry with Rice, and my favorite – Beanz with Balls. HotCans – the cure for cowardly beanz!

via Firebox


Franks and Beans Bubble Gum

Canned franks and beans. A staple of the canned food world. Now in gum form. Okay, so it doesn’t taste like actual franks and beans, but rather classic pink bubble gum. You can still admire how closely these chewy treats resemble the real deal. I might even go so far as to say that some people might not even notice the difference. I did say I might go so far as to say that.

($4.99 @ Amazon)



Packaged Food

StarKist Introduces New Autentico Canned Tuna

Starkist Autnetico Canned TunaStarKist is launching a new line of canned tuna products aimed specifically at the Hispanic palette. ‘Autentico‘ flavors include Light Tuna in Oil with Jalepenos, Sweet & Spicy Tuna in Oil with Peppers and Chunk Light Tuna in Oil with Vegetables. Autentico has combined a variety of vegetables and spices in this new line including: red bell peppers, sweet corn, carrots, green peas, chili peppers, tomatoes and jalepenos. The products will be available at Walmart stores nationwide and will retail for approximately $1.69 per can.


Tactical Bacon: Bacon in a can

Bacon with a 10-year shelf life, that’s what this can of Tactical Bacon will offer you. The can comes with 54 slices of bacon and is advertised to be perfect for camping trips, office life, hiking, etc. Each strip is smoke flavored and fully cooked, so you just pop the can and start eating anytime you need bacon. Interestingly enough, the nutrition facts are actually not too terrible on these strips. The fat to protein ratio is equal to one, with every serving of 3 strips beefing you up with 5 grams of protein and setting you back 5 grams of fat and 60 calories. ($15.99 @ ThinkGeek)