As part of our food storage we’ve been cleaning off the racks of dented canned food items whenever we find them on clearance. I have a whole shelf stacked full of dented cans.
Well, today my husband called me worried ’cause he heard somebody say that dented cans are dangerous. This raises some serious safety concerns. On the other hand, throwing way a number of cans from the pantry means you’d have to spend extra to get more food.
So are dented cans dangerous?
Yes and no, some dented cans can be dangerous but the majority of them are not. Dented cans are safe if the dents are small, and don’t occur on the seal or the lid.
Bad Signs of a Dented Can
When you buy canned goods at the store, you can expect that the contents will be fresh and safe to eat as soon as you open them, even many months later.
However, if the can, lid or seal is damaged, it could create an opportunity for bacteria to flourish or other contamination of food. In addition, a damaged will likely allow oxygen to enter, which can cause the food to spoil.
Always inspect canned food before you buy them, and check your own supply of canned goods for the following defects:
- ❌ The most obvious way to tell if a can of food has spoiled is by pushing on the top and bottom of the can. If the top or the bottom of the can moves, or pops, the seal has been broken and it is not safe to eat.
- ❌ When examining canned food for signs of spoilage, one of the first things to look for is damage to the can itself. If the dent is a sharp crease, it’s not safe. Dents, bends, or other deformities can indicate that the can has been damaged, potentially breaching a seal and, however slightly, allowing contamination. Dents that are shallow enough where you cannot lay your pinky finger in them are usually no worry unless they are on the lid or rim.
- ❌ If the can is bulging in any way, discard it. This is a sign that dangerous bacteria has been growing inside of the can, and the gases it is giving off is causing the can to swell. DO NOT open a can which is bulging. Breathing the gases inside is toxic.
- ❌ If there is rust on the can it probably isn’t safe to eat out of. Rusty patches can indicate that the can has been exposed to excess moisture or humidity and is no longer safe to eat from.
- ❌ If you notice any dark spots or discoloration on the surface of your cans, it is best to discard them immediately, and replace them with fresh supplies. In this way, rusty patches on canned goods can serve as an important indicator of compromised food quality and safety.
- ❌ When buying dented cans avoid the ones with dents along the seam of the top or bottom of the can. It is important to inspect the cans for dents to the rim or popped buttons on lids. These defects can indicate that the food inside the can may no longer be safe to eat. Dents in the rim of a can may cause small holes that allow air and bacteria to enter the food. Once bacteria are present, they can multiply quickly, leading to food poisoning.
- ❌ If when you open the can it sprays out, spurts, or somewhat explodes, this is a bad sign.
- ❌ And most obviously, if it’s leaking, toss it. One of the most common indicators of a compromised can is seeping or oil spots. This can happen if the can is damaged or if the seal around the lid or rim is no longer airtight. If you see seeping or oil spots on a can, it’s best to just discard it, as there is a major risk of contamination. By taking these precautions, you can help to ensure that your food is safe to eat.
The downside to buying dented cans is that even though they are most likely safe when you buy them, over time the cans may be weakened and the above signs will begin showing up. So, the best thing to do is use dented cans right away, or open them up and re-can the contents.
I’m so glad to have learned what the danger signs are to watch out for. Unfortunately, it looks like several of the cans we bought are not going to be safe to eat. Better safe than sorry, right? From now on, I think I’ll avoid the dented can section all together.
last update 01/05/2022
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.