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Storing open food can in fridge not poisonous

When I was a kid, I was told that if you open up a can of something, don't put what's left over in the can in the fridge, but put it in another container. If it sits in the can overnight, you can get food poisoning. Is that just an old wives' tale or urban legend, or do they make cans better these days?

— Tom, Eagle Point

You are very unlikely to get food poisoning from storing an open can of leftover food in the fridge, according to Jackson County Master Food Preserver Vickie Belknap.

"That would be a far stretch, as far as I'm concerned," Belknap said.

However, food stored in a can in the refrigerator can take on an unpleasant odor and taste.

"Once a can is opened, oxygen interacts with the food and metal. Food can take on a metallic taste," Belknap said.

The problem of metallic taste and odor was probably more pronounced in the early days of canned food. These days, manufacturers typically coat the inside of cans with plastic, which helps alleviate the problem, she said.

To preserve the quality of leftover food, it's best to store it in a food-grade plastic container or covered ceramic dish in the fridge. Eat the leftovers within two or three days, Belknap recommended.

If you don't refrigerate leftovers promptly, or if you wait too many days to eat the remaining food, you could make yourself sick, Belknap said.

Also, watch out for any dents, bulges or other damage to an unopened can of food.

"If a can is damaged prior to opening, it absolutely can be a problem, and you can get food poisoning," Belknap said. "Look for a foul odor, bubbling, foaming and discoloration. Don't taste it. Anything that doesn't look normal, dispose of it."

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