Are Dented Cans Safe?

The first thing I think about when I see dented cans at the grocery store, at home, or wherever… “Are dented cans safe?” If a can of food is dented, it might be unsafe to eat the food contents. BUT, not all dented food cans are bad. Chances are that it’s probably okay.

Some dented cans of food may be perfectly safe.

Here’s how to tell the difference.

There are several ways to determine whether or not a dented can of food may be safe to eat, or, if it should be discarded:

Push on the Top and Bottom of the Can

If the top or bottom moves or makes a popping sound, the seal has probably been broken. Air may have made its way inside. Throw out cans that make that popping sound.

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).

Dents on Top, Bottom, or Seams

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

Dent on Sides of Can – Probably Okay

Are dented cans safe? Well, if the can is dented along the side it will probably be safe for consumption, provided that you checked for other issues listed here.

Bulging And Bloated Can – Not Safe!

If it’s 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.

Is Rust Visible Anywhere on the 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? Not Safe!

When you open a normal can (either a pull tab or with a can opener) you will hear the subtle sound of air entering the can as the slight vacuum-seal of the can is released.

However, the contents should NEVER ‘ spray ‘ out when the can’s seal is first punctured with a can opener or by pulling the tab. This would indicate the can is under pressure (rather than a vacuum). Bacteria inside the can will cause it to bloat under pressure.

Unusual Odor After Opening?

Use your nose! Abnormal odor after opening? Don’t eat it. Throw it out.

The most popular can rack organizer that fits on existing shelves:

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Dented Cans on SALE at the Grocery Store

In my estimation, most ordinary dented cans are safe. They may have been dropped or mishandled, and sometimes put on sale at the grocery store discount shelf. Save money by knowing how to tell the difference between a safe or otherwise unsafe dented can of food. Sometimes these (dented) cans are on sale for a fraction of the price!


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

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

 [ Read: Use-by and Sell-by Dates ]

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