Dented cans – on sale and safe?

Are dented cans safe?

Dented cans – on sale and safe?

We see them in grocery stores. Some of us even get a discount because of them. But are dented canned foods really safe for us to eat? Unfortunately for our wallets, some of them are not. According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Services, if a can of food has a small dent, but is otherwise in good shape, the food should be safe to eat, however, a person should discard deeply dented cans.

How deep does the dent have to be in order for it to be deemed unsafe? A safe-to-eat can of food will have smooth dents or dents that are not on the seams of the can. Michigan State University Extension advises that you should discard a can if it has the following:

  • A dent in the seam
  • A dent where the sides and ends of the can meet
  • If there is a sharp dent
  • If the can is bulging or swelling

A deep dent is one that you can lay your index finger into. Dents where one can lay their finger into typically have sharp points on them, which can cause holes. Be especially careful of dents on the top or bottom parts of the can. Why, you ask? This is where the seal is, if the seal has been broken there is a very high chance the can has allowed bacteria to enter and grow in the can. Another method that you can use to tell if a can is safe to eat is to simply open it. If you break the seal with your can opener and the can sprays or explodes, it should not be cooked. Throw it out immediately.

So, why is it bad to eat food from a can with a dent in it? When a can is dented near a seam, it makes it possible for air to enter the can. Also be on the lookout for a sharp dent in a can causing a pinhole. That small of a hole can also allow air to enter. The air, combined with the moisture in the can, allows the growth of microorganisms. These specific microorganisms can’t be killed by cooking the product. In fact, consumption of this food could potentially result in Botulism. Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin produced by bacteria. Foodborne botulism symptoms begin between 12-36 hours after eating the toxin containing food. Symptoms of botulism include double vision, slurred speech and difficulty swallowing, dry mouth and muscle weakness. Severe cases have been shown to cause paralysis of breathing muscles which can cause death. If diagnosed early enough, the foodborne illness can be treated with an antitoxin that blocks the botulism toxin from circulating in the blood.

All in all, if you ever have a question or doubt in your mind as to whether a canned good with a dent is safe to eat, dump the dent and pick a different side dish for the meal.

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