Why You Should Always Clean The Outside Of Canned Food

Many of us love to cook with fresh ingredients, from ripe tomatoes to sweetly fragrant melons. But as delicious as fresh-from-the-market produce is, it's always a great idea to have canned food on hand, as well. Because of its long shelf life — food in cans that are stored in excellent conditions and remain clean, undented, and rust-free will last indefinitely, the U.S. Department of Agriculture states — canned food is a great backup to have in the house in these uncertain times. 

But even if you're not prepping for the apocalypse, a wide range of high-quality canned foods from tomatoes to beans to fish to corn are an inexpensive way to bring variety, color, and nutrients to dishes without having to run to the grocery store. As easy as it is to grab cans of coconut milk, pie filling or seltzer from the supermarket shelf and pile them into your pantry once you're back home — there's one more step you'll want to remember before cracking into any canned foods or beverages and that's cleaning the outside first.

The outside of jars, cans, and bottles can be full of dirt and bacteria

Have you ever thought about how many pairs of hands a can of tuna or a bottle of rosé has to pass through before it makes its way to your kitchen? According to registered dietitian Colene Stoernell, it's many — plus, various warehouses and shipping locations along the way (via Reader's Digest). All those movements typically result in canned and preserved goods accumulating dirt and grime, even if they look clean to the naked eye. Therefore, it's advisable to wash off — yes, with soap and water — jars, cans, and bottles of food and drink before opening them up to consume them.

"I always wash any beverage can before I open it, even if I am pouring the contents out into a glass," Stoernell told Reader's Digest. "Those cans have been all over the place and are filthy," added Caitlin Hoff, a health and safety investigator. "It's important to wash the grime and bacteria that cans can collect before you drink out of a soda or open a canned good and expose the food to the bacteria on the outside of the can." So before you grab the can opener, head to the sink and reach for a bottle of soap instead.