Dish with live oysters on the table in the interior of a luxury restaurant
Vladimir Mironov/iStock/GettyImages

Canned oysters aren't as tasty as fresh ones, but they can come in handy when you can't get fresh ones. They work well in soups and stews. But you need to know the age of the canned oysters before you actually eat them. Making sense of these dates requires you to understand various words such as “Expiration” or “Freshness.” Though most stores pull canned food from their shelves before it expires, it makes sense to know how to read the dates on a can of smoked oysters so that you do not get sick from expired food.

Learn the various ways that manufacturers list expiration dates. For instance, cans of smoked oysters may list the expiration date by the month and then the day (June 4), digits followed by a dash (6-4) or by a date with the month, day and then the year as in “642010 or 06042010.”

Learn the difference between a "freshness" or "quality assurance" date and an "expiration" date. Freshness means the time that the canned oysters (or other foods) are at the peak of their flavor; you might see something like “Best if consumed by June 2010.” An expiration date for canned oysters represents the last day they should be eaten. warns against eating canned oysters past their expiration date to avoid sickness.

Store unopened canned oysters for up to a year in a dry, cool place. Canned oysters will have an expiration date and should be stored refrigerated in their liquid in a covered container once opened, according to


Let the date on the label be your guide to freshness--but always look for signs of spoilage when using packaged foods. If your canned oysters have mold, an off color, or smell bad, throw them away.