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Is It Safe To Eat The Food From Damaged Cans?

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Pippa Corbett Profile
Pippa Corbett answered
It really depends what you mean by 'damaged'. If the can has been perforated, then the contents may have become exposed to bacteria and other pathogens.

However, if the damage to the can is a minor dent, then the food inside should be safe to eat.

Is it safe to eat food from damaged cans?
In many supermarkets these days, there's a shelf or basket reserved for dented cans of food and slightly-damaged goods. These products are often sold at a lower price, because shoppers will always prefer to buy food with undamaged packaging.

However, unless the environment within a can has been altered, the contents should be fine to eat. For example, a tin of baked beans that has been dropped and dented will be 100% safe to eat, as long as there isn't a hole in the tin.

Should I eat food out of dented cans?
Most canned food has a substantially-longer shelf-life than fresh produce, because the contents are canned and then heated to a super-high temperature once inside the sealed can. Because the inside of the can gets so hot, all bacteria is wiped out.

Even once the inside of the can cools down, bacteria cannot infect the environment inside the can because it is airtight.

It's only when a hole is made in the can that bacteria can come flooding in. Once they do, it can be only a matter of hours before the food becomes dangerous to eat!

My advice would be to examine a dented can before you buy it - as even the tiniest hole can let in swarms of bacteria. And, regardless of whether your can is dented or in tip-top shape, you can always heat food to above 65 °C to exterminate all bacteria present.
E Jacobson Profile
E Jacobson answered
Whilst it may seem to be edging on the side of over-caution, it is always best to avoid eating from any can which is damaged in any way. Moderate levels of damage will not present a serious health risk, but all cans have a lacquered surface inside them, which can be damaged by denting them.

This could mean that the food inside will come into contact with the metal and it may be tainted by the metal. This is a particular risk if the food is acidic, such as orange segments, or rhubarb.

However, if you drop the can and damage it, just before you are about to use it, then this will be quite safe, since the contact between food and metal will only have been momentary.

When eating canned food, it is also important to check the seals on the top, bottom and sides. If they have been damaged, then bacteria can enter and there is a risk of food poisoning.

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