The #1 Mistake You’re Making When Opening Canned Food


If your pantry is anything like mine, it’s stacked with cans of beans, soup, fruits and vegetables. That’s because I know that canned foods help meals come together quickly. They can easily be added to a variety of dishes or put together to make a meal. Plus, canned fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients since they’re picked and packaged at the height of freshness and ripeness. But the next time you go to use a canned item, you may be making one crucial mistake—keep reading to learn how to fix it so you can safely eat all the canned foods you want.

The #1 Mistake When Opening Canned Food

If you’re not wiping the top of your can clean before opening it, you’re making a mistake. Canned foods have been on a long journey before they reach your store shelves. They’ve “been through warehouses, trucks and maybe even airplanes,” says Christopher Mohr, Ph.D., RD, of, “collecting dust and other general debris.” For that reason, he recommends that before opening any can, you should wash and wipe the lid to reduce the risk of any cross contamination.

Jamie Mok, RDN, national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, agrees and advises consumers to always wash and wipe the lids of cans to reduce the spread of germs and bacteria and prevent the spread of foodborne illness. She says that the dust, grime and other germs that have collected on the lid can make their way into the food if not cleaned beforehand.

While it may be easy to overlook this food-safety step when you’re deep in your groove of meal prep and cooking, it’s a crucial, quick step in keeping you safe. In addition to wiping the top of your canned item before opening it, washing your hands often, working on clean surfaces and keeping raw meats and seafood separate from other foods are other safety tips to follow. Following these guidelines is crucial since every year an estimated 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick from foodborne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How to Wipe the Lid of the Can

Mok recommends following the Food and Drug Adminstration and CDC guidelines, which advise consumers to wash containers, including the tops of canned-food lids, with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use a scrubbing brush to reach inside deep rims or crevices. Also, use this time to look for signs of spoilage while washing, she says, such as bulging, denting or rusting of the can. If the can is clear of those markers, rinse it well with warm water, pat it dry, open it and use in your recipe.

Bottom Line

Cleaning the lid of canned foods is an easy task. If you’re worried you’ll forget, consider putting a note in your pantry or on your cans as a reminder until you get into the habit. Remember, taking those extra seconds to clean off the lid is a quick way to follow food-safety practices so you can stay healthy.


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