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A co-worker and I are having a disagreement on whether or not it's okay to put unopened cans of pizza sauce in a refrigerator. I say it's not, because the acidity in the tomatoes in the can will make someone extremely ill. He thinks as long as it is not opened, it will be fine. Who is correct?

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The tomatoes have the same acidity whether they are in the refrigerator or not. You seem to essentially be asking whether canned tomatoes are safe. –  sourd'oh Feb 7 '14 at 16:11
Just curious: Why would you put unopened cans in the fridge? –  Mien Feb 7 '14 at 16:13

2 Answers 2

There's nothing wrong with storing unopened metal cans in the refrigerator. But it's pointless - the whole point of canning is to make the food safe to store at room temperature. Don't waste the fridge space unless you're actually trying to chill the contents of the cans.

Now, if the cans are open, sure, that's a problem. You should transfer the food to a sealed container for storage, whether it came from a can or a pot or anywhere else.

But none of this has anything to do with acidity. Acidity doesn't make you sick, and in fact, it can help keep bacteria from growing and keep food safer. That's why a lot of canned goods have a bit of acid added, and why we pickle foods.

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It is bad health and safety to put tin in a fridge. It promotes the growth of bacteria.

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How does this apply to unopened cans? –  sourd'oh Feb 7 '14 at 16:51
Your link refers only to opened cans. The issue is that food shouldn't be stored in open cans, not that cans can't be put in a refrigerator. The link also states that the risk is from metal leeching into the food, not bacterial growth. –  sourd'oh Feb 7 '14 at 17:07
Yeah, this pretty much has to be bogus. Lower temperatures universally slow bacteria growth and slow all chemical reactions, including those that would cause metal to leach. I don't know why you'd want to store unopened cans in the fridge, it seems like a waste of energy, but I don't think it is dangerous. –  Michael at Herbivoracious Feb 7 '14 at 17:33
The question was about unopened cans of tomatoes, and your answer is about opened cans. It's completely true for opened cans, but that wasn't the question. If you have an NHS (or other authoritative reference) for why one shouldn't store unopened cans in the refrigerator, please feel free to edit your answer (or post a new one). If you don't, you're not answering the question, and we'll probably have to delete this. –  Jefromi Feb 7 '14 at 19:01
This claim is the unfortunate result of once-good advice that's been twisted beyond recognition and repeated throughout the media and online. Opened cans aren't safe to store in the fridge, but opened cans aren't safe to store anywhere, because of oxidation and a few other issues that refrigeration doesn't prevent. The refrigerator isn't the problem, and makes no difference whatsoever; the problem is the open-ness of the can and some people making the naïve assumption that refrigeration makes it safe. Once you open a can, you should transfer leftovers to another container - period. –  Aaronut Feb 9 '14 at 1:45

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