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. I wondered if we’d wasted all of that money on food we’d have to toss, so I got online and did a little research. Here’s what I found out:

Yes. Dented cans could possibly be dangerous, but the majority of them are not.  Here’s how to tell the difference…


  • 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.
  • 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. Rust can be a sign that air has penetrated the can, which will cause bacteria to grow inside.
  • When buying dented cans avoid the ones with dents along the seem of the top or bottom of the can.
  • If when you open the can it sprays out, spurts, or somewhat explodes, this is a bad sign.
  • If the dent is a sharp crease, it’s not safe.
  • And most obviously, if it’s leaking, toss it.

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.