Canned chicken hits the headlines

February 8: When a British husband and wife opened up a 50-year-old canned chicken they could never have realised that it would lead to a nationwide news story.

Les and Beryl Lailey were given the can of Buxted Chicken as part of a wedding gift hamper when they were married in 1956.

But Les, 73, didn’t eat it right away. He waited until their golden wedding anniversary, and several house moves later, to taste it for the first time.

* For more information about the benefits and virtues of canned foods go to Canned Food UK at www.cannedfood.co.uk or for technical information about the canning process go to the UK-based Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association at www.campden.co.uk

Soon the media found out and Les became a celebrity, appearing with Beryl in newspapers and being interviewed on the radio.

To the amazement of reporters, Les is not the least bit affected by his experience. Of eating the chicken, that is.

Most thought that there might be something wrong with a chicken that had been canned half a century ago in Suffolk. They were worried because there was no sell-by date on the can.

But the fact is that canned foods are nutritious and wholesome over much longer periods that most consumers realize. That’s why canned products are the staple in many a kitchen cupboard.

Frozen and chilled foods may have been popularized for their convenience, but they still need to be stored in refrigerators and, because they may deteriorate if warmed, they have limited storage lives. Canned foods are just as good years later as when they were packed.

That’s because the product is cooked inside and hermetically sealed. Only if the can is dented or damaged is there a risk of the food being affected. And that was amply demonstrated by Les Lailey when he opened the can of Buxted Chicken. “We kept it safe,” said Les, “and I always said `on my 50th wedding anniversary I’m going to eat that chicken’ – so I did!”

The pensioner says that he has not suffered any ill effects since sampling the decades-old bird which, he added, was good and tasted just like… chicken.