A Failure of The Shelf Life of Spam

Spam is a versatile and hardy food which many people think has a good shelf life, but does it really? In the past, I have mentioned on several occasions that Hormel Food products do not have an expiration date, only a best use date.

Notice the swelling on the sides of the can on the right, compared to a good can

See below how long spam lasts in the pantry, and how long spam could last in the refrigerator.

“How long Does Canned Meat last?”

Past Printed Date
Spam lasts for2-5 Years
Canned Chicken lasts for2-5 Years
Canned Tuna lasts for2-5 Years
Canned Corn Beef lasts for2-5 Years
Deviled Ham lasts for2-5 Years
Canned Clams last for2-5 Years
(After Opening)Refrigerator
Spam lasts for7-10 Days
Canned Chicken lasts for5-7 Days
Canned Tuna lasts for5-7 Days
Canned Corn Beef lasts for7-10 Days
Deviled Ham lasts for7-10 Days
Canned Clams last for5-7 Days

The product is always safe to consume as long as the seal has remained intact, unbroken and securely attached. However, the flavor and freshness of the product gradually begin to decline after three years from the manufacturing date.

Generally the shelf life of spam lasts for 2-5 years. How long it lasts depends on the conditions of where it is stored.

I have recently have had six cans of Hormel Spam 25% Less Sodium go bad. There was no damage to the cans.  The cans were swollen and spongy when you squeezed them.  The cans had been stored in a cool basement and the best use date was Oct 2014.

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When the cans were opened, you could hear a hissing noise.

how long does spam last - use by date
Here you can see the best use date on the bottom of the can

I have sent an inquiry to Hormel Foods and will publish their reply. In the past, I have not had any problems with Hormel foods and I hope this is an aberration.

But it goes to show that you always need to check your cans prior to opening regardless of the length of time you have had them stored and don’t forget to rotate your foods.

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75 thoughts on “A Failure of The Shelf Life of Spam”

  1. I’ve noticed that Spam has over the years moved to thinner and thinner metal for their cans. I like to get 1 pound canned hams. Walmart has DAK brand for about $3.80. Big Lots recently changed brands, slightly lesser grade but still good for $3.00. These are tough metal cans with long shelf life.

  2. The older type meat cans sealed with a tin soldered strip which you tore open and wound off with a key were more secure against rough handling than today’s lightweight, no opener required, tab opening cans. If the modern cans are dropped and struck on the tear tab, the seal may be broken. The thinner gage sheet metal used in modern cans is also more easily dented.

  3. SPAM and other commercially canned meats are OK.

    BUT, I prefer my home canned meats – ground beef and chicken, beef, and pork chunks. I can them in store-bought low-sodium beef or chicken broth. The advantages of home canned meats include: less fat, less sodium, more flavor, better knowledge of what it is that I’m really eating, and better matching of container size to my needs.

    Hangtown Frank

  4. I buy both 25% Less Sodium and the Light versions of SPAM. I haven’t had any go bad on me yet *knock on wood* and they sit in my kitchen cupboard for months on end.

    How long did you have the cans that went bad?

    1. Maybe 6 months or so and they were nowhere near there best use date. Never had this problem before, maybe just a bad batch. They were all bought on the same day.

      1. I just had a SERIOUS case of food poisoning from eating spam! It wasn’t past it’s best by date and was their “ low sodium” so I didn’t think much when it tasted “off”.
        Something weird is going on with this company lately.

  5. I was just reading the post on canning bacon and wondered if Spam couldn’t also be canned? Does anyone know a reason why it couldn’t be? This brings me to another question. I’m new to this and hope to acquire some info from those of you who are experts.
    I’ve read countless times that pressure canned food can be stored indefinitely, but that store-bought food in metal cans is only good for a few years. Why wouldn’t the metal canned food last as long as the pressure canned? Sorry if it’s a dumb question, I’m just trying to learn.

    1. Methane Creator

      Mike, you can Can SPAM (shoulder, port, anal meats), but the high fat content will not allow you to pack the jars as full as most other leaner meats. Your pressure canner will get pretty oily too. I would try cutting it into planks and frying it first. That will remove a lot of the oil and then Can it.

      1. You lost me at ‘anal meats’. I’m afraid I won’t be eating SPAM ever again.
        It’s probably been 20 yrs since I last tried it, so no big loss there. What I do Love though, is Deviled Ham in the little cans wrapped in white paper. If there’s anything unusual in there I don’t even want to know. I’m about 97% vegetarian & there’s so few precious meat items I can even eat anymore that I’m sticking my head in the sand on this one.

  6. Did you receive a response from hormel? I have 7 cans of spam that I found in my pantry with a best by Feb 2015, same situation as you. Very swollen, did not open any of them.

      1. I just emailed Hormel, lets see what they tell me. I know that i purchased the 7 cans from the same store, all with the same best buy date.

  7. I just noticed that I have about 8 cans of Spam 25% less sodium that are also swollen. They all have the same best by Oct 2014 date and other info as yours, except the time (or what appears to be the time) is 10:31…wonder if there’s some bad bugs in the mixture/bad canning process. I’m going to give them a call.

  8. We purchased 5 cans of Spam “Lite” back April 2013 and in Sept, I noticed 3 of the 5 cans had “bloated” so much, it was hard to push the top or bottom in. I noticed that the cans were tilted, not standing vertically. It was because the bottoms were now rounded. Expiration dates were Oct 2014. Contacted Hormel and they sent 3 coupons with no explanation. Then, last month, I noticed another Oct 2014 can bloated. And now, the last of the Oct 2014 cans is bloated, plus another “Lite” can with expiration of Sept 2014 is expanded too. All 5 cans with Oct 2014 plus one Sept 2014 have expanded. We have other cans that have expired with no visible signs of bloating.

    There is obviously a problem with that batch! NOT GOOD! Hormel has done nothing. This could be very serious!

  9. I just discovered a bloated can on 25% less sodium spam in my pantry, and I found this page. Seems like this is not an isolated incident!

    However, mine has a Sept 2014 “best by” date… so it’s not just the Oct 2014 batch.

    I’ll be writing to Hormel as well…

  10. I also have the problem with the low sodium spam cans. Mine are the best by Dec 2014 and EST number 199 A110814. 2 different purchases of the 4 packs, probably from Costco. I just wrote Hormel an email today. I expect some coupons to reimburse as that seems to be standard proceedure for bad food.

    There is no damage to the cans, if there was they couldn’t get so round! Looks like I have a spam bomb about to blow. One of the 4 packs wasn’t even out of the cardboard sleeve. I am thankful there happened to be one on the shelf in “circulation” and we found it, the others probably would not have been looked at for quite some time as they are in a tote under the shelves. This is kind of “back up” food that we sneak into every now and then because we like spam!

    I think Hormel is going to have to do some kind of recall on this stuff if the complaints keep pouring in. We did eat a couple of the cans earlier and they must have been OK (I am still here to write this), but they have been just sitting in the basement and the rest swelled up.

    1. I received 6 coupons for the bad cans. Still never have found them on any of the government food recall sites. That is odd. This seems to me to be a pretty serious problem!

  11. Came here because of the same issue. Two of the 3-pack of Spam 25% Less Sodium I bought from Costco were swollen. “Best by MAR 2015” I know I shouldn’t have, but I opened one and it smelled okay so I sliced it up, fried it up for my dinner sandwiches. I awoke suddenly at 2:30 am and made a mad dash for the bathroom. It was not pleasant.

  12. I also have the cans of lite SPAM mentioned above. Similar expiration dates. Tried frying up one of the bloated cans today. Smelled the food … no notice of bad smell or anything. I took one bite … decided I better do some quick reading (remembered the old saying about NEVER eat anything canned that is swollen or has hissing sound … from gas being generated internally by bacterial decomposition). After reading Sigmund above … perhaps a mad dash at 2:30 am isn’t the preferred outcome.

  13. My bloated spam (25% less sodium) is dated Aug 2014 and also came from Costco. I think instead of writing Hormel, I will take them back to Costco. Perhaps I will get better customer service.

  14. I had 5 cans of bloated spam. I called the 800 number on the can and they said that these are NOT safe to eat and need to be disposed of. The CS rep got my name and address and sent me a reimbursement check for the amount I paid for the 5 cans at costco. You will need to have a can with the info on the bottoms when you call in. CS recommended calling, not emailing or writing for a faster and more accurate response. Took me less than 4 mins, no hold or wait.

  15. Looks like all the bad cans were the “less sodium” style. Anyone think the lack of salt might make them less shelf stable? I just check my 21 cans and had two bad, both with 2015 expiration dates. One hickory smoke and one regular, so I guess that blows that theory. Not hard to tell if they are bad, the sides of the cans are usually concaved and will not bend in. The bad ones do, the others do not. I guess the same warning applies to all canned good. Check the can then smell it before you eat it. Does anyone know if Hormel makes the private label WalMart brand?

  16. Hi guys–I just wanted to jump in and my two cents. I just recently had 36 cans of regular SPAM go bad in my pantry, dated SEP2014. I’m on another forum, and don’t know your rules about cross-posting here, so please feel free to delete the following address if it isn’t kosher, and accept my apologies.


    I contacted Hormel foods…they really didn’t seem to care much.

  17. Hi I have a spam Lite without expiration or best by date. How can I know if its safe to eat? It only say on the bottom of the can that it was packed 24-06-2011and the EST.

  18. Here in Hawaii, we eat a lot of Spam! I’m not sure why but we have recently noticed the same problem. I have several bloated cans in my pantry.



  19. I also just found 8 swollen cans of low sodium spam in my pantry. I live in Hawaii and kept them cool and dry. The sell by date is feb 2015. I guess I’m calling the 800 number too. 🙁

      1. Hormel offered my coupons for my trouble. I’m disappointed that they don’t stand their product. I’m taking it to social media.

  20. I found that I too had a number of cans of Spam low-sodium that have bulged. I am calling their 800-number but I wonder if this is a problem that’s becoming widespread. Has Hormel made any comment as to whether this is a ongoing problem or if it could be reoccurring or if this is something to continue to watch for in the future on their products. Without Hormel acknowledging what is going on it does make me think twice about ever using their products in the future.

  21. With the continuous efforts to maintain a profitable operation every company must cut costs. With food processes they are hit on multiple fronts with not just the product cost but packaging costs and energy costs. It could well be that some of the cuts made in production would shorten the shelf life. The processes are usually “secret” processes that need to be reviewed. With the use of “secret” in their process the government will be the only one who will know of any changes. Not as if it hasn’t been done before but payoffs are not unheard of. The public would not know unless the can “bulges” The only power the public has is the power of the purse. The internet will give us the voice we need and the people when they no longer buy will tell them they have a problem and they need to listen. I have purchased some for long term storage so I will keep close watch and will ship them back without hesitation. Thanks for the post You may have saved some people from an uncomfortable sickness.
    a grateful Grampa

  22. I contacted Hormel Foods today at the 800 number on the can. I told them about my bloated cans and they said they wanted me tootle them how much I paid for them. I didn’t, as I bought them at Costco but would check into it. They told me to call back with the info and they would remberse me for the cost. Bay the way the best used by date has not yet been reached (March 2015) but is close. I asked about the problem and she was a bit closed mouth about what it was but did admit to it being a problem with one of their canning facilities and that it has been corrected. She said it was canned in 2012. All in all they were very professional but it would be interesting to know what it was that caused the issue, but company liability needs to be protected.

  23. Food recalls are issued by the FDA. If they don’t know, they can’t help.

    As a home economist I strongly encourage everyone to please do the following.

    Contact the FDA with all food complaints. This is the new method for reporting food issues.

    Make sure you enter all information found on the bottom of the can. This is important. With it they can trace all the production information and issue a recall.



    Remember safety first. Death is not worth the price of a can of any food.

  24. I’m sure glad I stumbled onto this info. AND I thought I was the only SOB that likes Spam. 68 years old & have eaten it all the way through. It was a staple during WWII, and I was spawned shortly after.

  25. Thanks everyone for your comments .I found 4 bulging cans today,regular, best by of 3-1015. I called, like Michael, they didn’t admit much except that it was a packaging problem that had been fixed .The woman said even a pinhole lets air in (I knew that) and its rotting from the inside. I bought a can of sausage hash ( 16 oz ) a few weeks ago and it bulged or was that way when I bought it.Just F.Y.I. I chucked it and didn’t think to call then. so because I didn’t have bar code to give them i’m out of luck there. She probably thought I was lying. But she wrote that down , took my name and address. coupons are supposed to be on the way. She appeared to be trying to cover Hormels backside.Kept saying she’d never heard of that…Either way my family loves spam and will continue to purchase.will be watching closer though.

  26. I just found 9 cans, all different expiration dates, with bulging cans. Decided to check it out on the internet before I chanced it. Guess I won’t! They are all the Lite version. There is Jan, Mar 2015, & some 2014.

  27. Same problem here with 3 out of 5 cans bloated.

    Eating from those cans can make one very ill possibly with botulism and that is not fun. I knew somebody who got that.

    I will not be eating the other cans. This is disappointing since spam use to be a staple of my backup supplies and one of the reasons many people bought spam for.

    I guess they don’t care about that.

  28. I have a can of spam 25% less sodium dated best if used by Dec 2012 and it is not bulged out at all. I’m going to use it.

  29. all of you guys comment’s are really great for those of you that bought the less sodium cans of spam could it be it’s the low sodium that’s making them go bad sooner than later i woun’t use any canned food with low sodium no matter what it is now that’s just me.

    1. That might be a valid theory about a cause of this problem. If it was only 1 bad run then why such a wide spread of code dates?

  30. Hi, just checked my cans of regular Spam. All were bulging with best by date of August 2014. I have tossed them after photographing them. No reason to open them! Then I checked all other canned goods but the rest appear just fine.

  31. Just opened a can that I’ve had at least a couple of years. Best by date of September 2016. There was no swelling of the can. It is the “lite” version with less fat and less sodium. I like mine fried. It was just as good as I remember from childhood (WWII era). The best way to cook it is cut it into at least 1/4 in slices and slow fry so that the outside doesn’t get too brown and rubbery. I’m not a prepper (yet) but I plan to begin rotating a supply in and out for emergency rations.

  32. danger, will ,danger!caution with cans not swollen but slightly collapsed,but when opened ,emitted a foul odor.beware of other unhealthy conditions,of long term food storge.

  33. we have five bloated cans, looks like one is almost to explode, two less sodium, two regular and one turkey. All with expiration dates ranging from 02/2015 to 04/2015. Quite a surprise when we looked at our food pantry.

    We have five bloated cans of Spam, two less sodum, two regular and one turkey. One looks like it will explode! Quite a surprise when we went through our food closet. Exp dates are from Feb 2015 to April 2015, just a few months out of date. We’re sending a pic to Spam to verify the lot numbers.

  34. Lenie Abon Competente

    I have four (4 ) cans of Spam, before cooking of any kind of canned goods I usually look and see the best before or the expiration date. And had already cooked the two Spam, when I am about to cook again the third Spam I’ve noticed that the Spam Lite Hormel foods has NO BEST BEFORE or EXPIRATION DATE :. Packed on 20 11 2015 6
    EST199N ILITE 19:43x
    That is what indicated at the bottom in the Spam Lite can. I wrote and made a complaint ‘coz I knew that all canned goods have a best before or expiration date.
    Thank you for giving attention regarding on this matter and a reply.

  35. Nov 2, 2017… Spam lover of many years… 1st bad can on Nov 1, 2017…. No bulge or hissing sound upon opening… Meat was desicated, pulled away from can wall, shrunken and covered with grayish-white ‘mold’… Didn’t finish pulling tab cover off. No puncture of can detectable. Exp. date was 2020. Cans are now thinner and softer than in years past. Immediately called USDA & FDA… Per instruction placed can (wrapped in foil & plastic baggie) in freezer… was given an “Investigation number”… agent was not sure if I would (a) get a phone call, (b) get a letter, or (c) get a visit to my home.

  36. Bought two 4-can pkgs several years ago, (exp 2014). Last night I found that all eight cans, undamaged and still in original packaging, were bulging.

  37. Understand metal parts found in canned SPAM made Feb. 2018 are being recalled. What would be the “best used by date Feb. 2020” on two cans I have, so when were they processed?

  38. Opened 2 cans of low sodium spam, both of them were spoiled.
    Terrible looking! Use by date May 2020. My doctor told me to quit
    eating Spam,well this may just have sealed the deal!

    1. Glad I’m not the only one this happened to! We can’t take canned food for granted, thinking it will last forever and always be safe to eat.

  39. Open the can and smell the meat. If it looks good, smells good, taste a piece (finger nail size) and compare it to a new can of the same variety. Wait a few hours to see how you feel. I am rotating my emergency food and opened and ate a can of SPAM that was 12 years old. The can was slightly puffy but I wanted to proof my stock of food. There were no issues. I grew up on the stuff, went through boy scouts with it, and still eat it on occasion.

  40. 1. If you are storing SPAM for use in an emergency, you should be buying the original recipe, not the lower salt alternatives. Salt is a preservative. I notice that most of the incidents of storage failure were for one of the lower salt versions.

    2. SPAM has a reputation as a very bad food. I disagree. There are three complaints, none of which is valid.
    a. Too much salt. Salt is not a poison. In fact, it is an absolutely required nutrient. An “no salt diet” would kill you. True, we in America eat more salt than we should. But when SPAM is combined with other ingredients that have no salt (such as rice), the result is not overly salty. Your preps should include salt itself because food from the garden, foraged, and killed animals are generally are lacking in salt. As well as its use as a preservative.
    b. Too much animal fat. Animal fat was demonized to get people to accept margarine during war time. Animal fat contains vitamins which are difficult to obtain from other sources. It does not cause you to become fat from eating it; to the contrary, low fat diets cause weight gain. Peppers are more likely to have too few fats in their survival stores for a balanced diet, not too many.
    c. Made from non-standard “junk” parts of the pig. This is true of Vienna sausages and potted meat, but not SPAM.

    1. Does it even matter if it is the junk parts of the pig? As long as it is nutritionally sound?

      And a big amen to the rest of your comment. Who is worried about fat content when living on emergency rations?!?!?

  41. @N J Johnson
    Just cracked open a can of “oven roasted” Turkey Spam I bought in 3/2013 “best by”: Feb 2016…
    Still good! Looked and smelled O.K., cooked it up in an egg scramble with onions & cheddar. Now my oldest “regular’ can is from 2/19.
    30day Wuhan/Chinese Flu Lock down??? Bring it! 😉

  42. Well, after seeing all the 2014 Use By comments here I decided to get off my butt and check my two cans I know about. Yep, I bought ’em years ago for emergency use. And yep, they’re coincidentally use by 2014–what is it about that year? Though not low sodium b/c I LIKE salt and feel it has gotten a bad rap. These two however look perfect so I’ll keep aging them. You guys who cooked up and ate the compromised meat are rally brave, I guess?

    1. If the can is undamaged, the seals are intact, and the can is free from rust, it’s probably still safe to eat. Of course, if the spam looks or smells “off”, definitely throw it out!

  43. Hi Everyone. This morning I opened a can of Spam Lite to use in making an omelette sandwich on my panini grill. The can was purchased recently as part of my survival rations for use during the corona mythological pandemic. It looked bright and shiny and showed no signs of tampering. Upon opening the can, I was met with the most disgusting decaying mess I have ever seen, and it emitted a smell that made me wretch. When I recovered somewhat, I opened a can of regular Spam and it looked and smelled great, so I rewashed everything I had touched in bleach and started my breakfast prep again with the can of regular Spam. I cannot imagine what happened, but I won’t give Spam lite another chance. I’m not even sure I will be able to get beyond what I experienced this morning and may never use the product again.

  44. I found a few of my Spam (25% Less sodium) bloated too. The cans would now rock due to its being so swollen & bloated. Also you could hear the meat moving inside when you shake the can…really odd! And my stock of Spam cans, bought from Costco last year, should be good still until March 2023!!! I called the Spam 1800# to inform them and they got the info printed on the bottom of the cans. The customer service rep said to just throw the bloated cans & they will just reimburse us. They said its already spoiled & unsafe to open and eat.

  45. Hello Spam! I love Spam, one thing besides every one’s in put! Please do not store your spam upside down!
    It will leak and foam out and make a mess in your cupboards.
    I had bought a pretty “Spam” insulated bag, I stored 9 “Spam” cans, zipped it up thinking how cute it looked and the extra protection of the insulation, the cute Spam pictured on it. I tried to e-mail a picture of this cute bag but lost my CP import from phone camera.
    Well, I decided I would treat myself.
    My husband won’t eat it, but I am born and reared in the Hawaiian Islands. My father worked on the sugar plantation!
    To my surprise when unzipped my cute bag, the first top layers 3 cans (stored upside down) because then I could read the use before date on the bottom, 3 cans had leaked all over, down to the next two layers. Guess the pull tabs are not strong to hold the spam in.
    So the moral of the story, “DO NOT STORE Spam Cans upside down”!

  46. Opened a can of SPAM and it was white on top with maggots in it….didn’t expire until 2024! I don’t think I will ever eat SPAM again!

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