Safely disposing of unsafe home canned goods

Canned carrotsMany of you have probably finished your home canning for the season. As you are selecting your jars for use make sure you examine each jar for spoilage. What should you be looking for? First of all make sure the lid is tight and a vacuum seal was created. Look for any streaks of dried food on the outside of the jar. As you look at the contents inside the jar, see if you can detect cloudy canning liquid, rising air bubbles, or any unnatural colors. When you open the jar make sure you do not see any mold growing. Also pay attention to any spurting liquid or odd smells. These things are good indicators of food spoilage. Never taste the food from a jar that you suspect has been spoiled. You will also want to dispose of it properly.

If the jars are still sealed but show signs of spoilage, you can leave the jar intact but write on the jar that it is spoiled or poisonous and to not eat it. You can place those jars in a heavyweight garbage bag, close the bag, and place it in your regular trash container or dispose of it in your nearby landfill.

If the jars are not sealed they should be detoxified before being disposed of. In order to do that you will want to first of all protect yourself by wearing rubber or plastic gloves. Remove the lids from the jars. Carefully place the jars in a large pan on their sides. Add the lids to the pan as well. Add water to the pan until it reaches one inch above the jars. Cover the pan and bring the water to a boil. Boil for 30 minutes to detoxify the possible botulism toxin in the food. Once the food and lids have cooled you can throw them away in your regular trash. Wash the jars and the pan you used in hot soapy water.

To decontaminate any surfaces that the spoiled food may have come in contact with, spray or wet the surface with a solution of one part bleach to five parts water and let it sit for 30 minutes. If you are decontaminating metal utensils, use one teaspoon bleach to one quart of water and again let it sit for 30 minutes. Use paper towels to wipe up any treated spills. Discard of the paper towels in a plastic bag before putting them in your regular trash.

Spoilage in home canned food does happen. Make sure you examine your jars carefully before serving any not only to your family and friends but pets as well.


Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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3 thoughts on “Safely disposing of unsafe home canned goods

  1. I moved into an old house and there are tons of old canned food. Some jars are in tact and some are clearly unsealed. Some food is clearly gone bad. I want to dispose of these jars properly. I do not wish to salvage even the jars. How should I handle the jars where the seals are clearly broke?

  2. Hi, the contents of the opened jars can be buried in a hole deep enough that dogs or cats in your neighborhood would not have access to them. Be sure to limit your exposure to the contents of the jars.

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