Our emergency food stockpiles represent one of the most important resources to have on hand during a prolonged-crisis, yet so many people forget to inspect them on a regular basis.  While properly-packing and storing foods will go a long way to reduce the risk of loss over time, there is always the chance that items can go bad without our knowledge.  This is why it’s so important to periodically check supplies and replace defective items as necessary, and here are a few things to be on the lookout for.

Popping Lids

It’s not always easy to recognize when a can has lost its vacuum seal by looking at it alone.  Test each one by pressing down on the lid and making sure that it doesn’t move or pop once after you let go.  Popping or bulging lids are clear indicators that the seal has been compromised and the contents may have spoiled.  It’s always better to err on the side of caution and discard these items, because you really don’t know how long the product has been exposed to air.

Exploding Food

Can you think of any foods that will expand or explode once you open the lid?  The vast majority of items will never do this, and it’s a tell-tale sign that the item is no longer safe for consumption.  Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to know the condition of these items until you go and open them.  However, rotating supplies and replenishing them on a regular basis can minimize the loss associated with this type of spoilage.

Rust or Corrosion

There are a few common reasons why rust forms on cans or around lids of mason jars.  First, material can be leaking from the inside, and this is indicative of a poor seal that allowed oxygen to enter.  Second, exposure to moisture can cause cans to corrode and also create gaps that can oxygenate the product.  While you can use your own judgment in determining whether or the corrosion is something to worry about, it may be best to just discard the product and find a safer alternative.


This one is pretty obvious, but leaks can easily go undetected, especially if they occur in items that are stored in out of the way places.  Inspecting and rotating supplies is your first line of defense when it comes to identifying leaky products and replacing them.

No Sound

Most, if not all, cans and sealed jars will make a sound when you open the lid.  This is the sound of compressed air exiting as the pressure inside of the container equalizes.  If there is no pop or sound, then this is a good indicator that the product wasn’t sealed properly.  Keep in mind that there doesn’t always need to be a bulge or bounce to the lid to indicate poor sealing.  Checking for that familiar “pop” is the best way to ensure that your product was properly sealed.

Odd Characteristics

Fresh products usually don’t have inconsistent colors, bubbling liquid or other odd characteristics when they are opened.  While some items, such as fruits packed in heavy syrup may have a few bubbles, most do not.  The same could be said of strange smells.  Items should smell like they did when packed. If something seems a little out of place after being opened, don’t take any chances.  Discard and choose another alternative.

One of the benefits of utilizing good rotation is that products rarely get so old that their quality is an issue.  Another benefit is that you can test products that you’re not sure about in order to identify any potential problems.  Finally, you become familiar with what good products look and taste like, and this makes it easier to identify items that are out of the norm.

These indicators, along with a little bit of common sense, can go a long way to help you evaluate the quality of your stockpile.  Make it a point to rotate and inspect your supplies, and chances are that you will be able to significantly-reduce any unexpected surprises from cropping up at the worst possible time.