If a can of food is dented, it may be unsafe to eat its food contents. It may need to be discarded. But not all dented food cans are ‘bad’.

Some dented cans of food may be perfectly safe.

Here’s how to tell the difference if a dented can of food is safe to eat or not…

Tip: Save money by knowing how to tell the difference between a safe or otherwise unsafe dented can of food. How? Because sometimes these (dented) cans are on sale for a fraction of the price!

There are four simple ways or guidelines to determine whether or not a can of food is safe to eat or should be discarded.

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Push On The Top And Bottom Of The Can

If the top or bottom of the can moves or makes a popping sound, the can’s seal has probably been broken. Air may have made its way inside. Popped cans should be thrown out.

If the can does not make a noise or move when pressing on the top and bottom, it’s probably safe to eat (the seal is still good).


Bulging And Bloated Can

If the can of food is bulging and bloated (unlike an ordinary dent), it is not safe. Cans will bulge and bloat when bacteria begins to produce gasses which push the can outward.

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Rusted Can

Rust will weaken the integrity of the can and may allow air and bacteria to enter, particularly if the rust does not simply brush off.


Does The Can ‘Spray’ Out When You Open It?

When you open the can – when you puncture the lid with a can opener, it should not spray (as in being under pressure). If it does spray, do not eat the food because it may be contaminated with bacteria. Safe dented cans will open the same as non dented cans.

Tip: Avoid buying cans that are dented on the top or bottom, or the seams. This is where the can is weakest – where the main seams of the can are located.

Tip: If the can is dented along the side it will probably be safe to eat the food inside, provided that you checked for other issues listed above.

Note: When a can has become dented… the dent, crease, or dimple has weakened the can at that spot – especially a sharp dent. Further metal stress over time may cause the can to leak, so for this reason it is advisable to consume the food from your dented cans first – given the checks above.

Note: Foods that have abnormal odors should not be eaten.

Having said all that, when in doubt, throw it out.

(Information gathered from sources including grocery store owners and USDA inspectors.)

Related: Use-by and Sell-by Dates