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Opening the lid
on canned food

In a world where we are continually being urged to buy local and eat fresh in a bid to provide ourselves with optimum levels of taste and nutrition, we should nevertheless not underestimate the convenience or value provided by canned food. Here, industry body Canned Food UK gives us an overview of the canned food arena and, with the help of nutritionist Amanda Ursell, dispels the myths associated with it

From domestic larders to foodservice store cupboards, canned foods are an integral part of any cook’s list of essential ingredients. With contents as diverse as fruit, veg, pulses, meat, fish, soup and pasta – to name but a few – canned foods are both affordable and convenient as well as being an ideal ingredient to a wide variety of meals. Moreover, as the food is pressure cooked in the can, it needs no preservatives to retain a long shelf-life.

Canned fruit - strawberriesFruit

Fruit is a popular choice when it comes to canned food as not only is it very versatile, but it can also be used in desserts to boost their nutritional value.

  • 80g of fruit canned in juice counts as one of your 5-a-day
  • Fruit was conventionally canned in syrup; now more than 50 per cent is canned in juice
  • Canned fruits are a great source of Vitamin C
  • Canned fruit is one of the most popular canned foods, with the amount sold since 2007 stretching almost four times around the world (2007: 89,875,008; 2008: 87,741,776; 2009: 75,066,504 and counting)1.


Canned vegetables - sweetcornVegetables

As they are canned almost as soon as they are picked, canned vegetables are often better for you than fresh, as all the nutrients found at source are retained.

In recent years, salt, sugar, colourings and preservatives have been reduced in all canned vegetables, with the equivalent of 175 tonnes of salt, and 35 tonnes of sugar now gone. In fact, cans of carrots, garden peas and potatoes comprise only the vegetable and water with no added sugar or salt.

  • An 80g portion of spinach gives 11mg of vitamin C, which is vital for strong immunity and good quality skin
  • 80g of canned vegetables counts as one of your 5-a-day
  • Canned veg are a good source of folic acid.


Canned meat - corned beefMeat

There is a wide variety of canned meat products available to suit most tastes and pockets. Teamed with other ingredients, canned meat can contribute to a balanced, affordable and nutritious meal.

Canned meat products are sealed and preserved by pressure-cooking food in the can – canned meat can be a good source of minerals, such as zinc. The quality of canned meat has improved greatly since 2005, e.g. Irish Stew now contains 100 per cent lean lamb leg in many brands. Today, the quality of canned meat is the same as the meat used in chilled and ready meals.

  • Since 2005, the amount of artificial colours used in canned ready meals containing meat has dropped by up to 95 per cent
  • Since 2005, the canned food industry has worked hard to remove tons of salt from canned meat
  • A 100mg portion of canned beef mince contains a good range of B vitamins, needed for energy release and healthy nerves.


Canned beansPulses and Beans

Beans are the classic canned produce. In the UK, a can of baked beans is eaten every 14 seconds – more than in any other country. However it is not just baked beans that make a store cupboard essential, there is a wide range of other beans and pulses available.

Canned beans and pulses are the ultimate convenience food. Packed with fibre and giving useful amounts of the mineral iron and the B vitamin folate, canned beans and pulses can be used straight from the can as an addition to everything from curries to chillis, pastas to soups.

  • Since 2005, the industry has removed over 380 tons of salt per year from canned baked beans
  • As consumer tastes have changed, even more sugar has been removed from baked beans – around 760 tons per year
  • A 135g can of baked beans provides 7g of protein, which is around a sixth of a woman’s protein needs for the day
  • Canned beans and pulses are convenient to prepare – they are already cooked in the can, saving hours of the soaking and blanching required for dried varieties.


Canned fishFish

Canned fish is another popular canned variety providing an easy solution for sandwich fillings and light meals. The convenience and value for money with canned fish means that dishes including more expensive fish such as crab are much easier and cheaper to prepare.

  • A typical 100g serving of canned salmon (flesh and bones) provides 1⁄3 of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for calcium, 1⁄5 of the RDA for magnesium and over 1⁄3 of our recommended daily selenium intake
  • Canned oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, pilchards and sardines are a good source of heart healthy omega 3 fats and count towards the recommended one serving of oily fish a week.


Canned soupPasta and Soup

Canned pasta and soup can be heated in minutes and are very versatile. Since 2003, many canned varieties have undergone sodium reductions of up to 60 per cent.

  • The labelling of sodium and salt* has improved, making it easier for caterers to ensure the food they prepare remains within the recommended 6g maximum salt limit per day
  • Canned pasta now contains less than 5 per cent sugars.


Can recyclingEnvironment

Three of the best ways to protect the environment are to reduce waste, save energy and preserve the planet’s natural resources. Using canned food will help you to tick all these boxes.

  • All metal cans are 100 per cent recyclable
  • Recycled cans are used either to make more cans or other metal goods such as fridges or cars
  • Recycling cans reduces waste going to landfill
  • Every recycled can saves the equivalent in natural resources, such as coal and iron ore, that was used to make them
  • All canned foods are already cooked in the can so they save cooking time and energy in the kitchen
  • Their long shelf life and variety of sizes mean you only need to open them when you want them, thereby avoiding waste
  • Storing cans in the cupboard saves the energy that is used to freeze or refrigerate food.

For further information on Canned Food UK, its members or recipes, visit

1 TNS Canned Food Report 2008/09
* Salt comprises sodium and chloride; it is the sodium in salt that has the greatest effect on our health. Food labels must list sodium content, but because we eat most of our sodium in the form of salt, food labels often contain salt content as well.

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