How to Tell If Canned Tuna is Bad?

5/5 - (1 vote)

The vast majority of us always have tuna in a can on hand, maybe so that we can add some additional protein to a salad, so that we can make sandwiches, or even simply so that we can put it in our Emergency Preparedness bag.

When cleaning out the pantry, it is not uncommon for old cans to be uncovered; hence, the purpose of this piece is to provide a straightforward solution to the essential issue of how to determine whether or not canned tuna has gone bad, breaking the process down into four easy stages. If your can of tuna is able to make it through all of these procedures without any problems, then you should be able to use it to make tuna salad on rye bread rather than throwing it out. I also investigate the best way to keep canned tuna, both before and after it has been opened.

Storing Canned Tuna

Unopened canned products, including tuna, should be kept in a location that is cool, dry, and out of direct sunlight. In most cases, a kitchen cabinet that is situated away from the range or a pantry would suffice. Tuna in a can is a food that is considered to be shelf stable.

When a can of tuna or any other kind of canned food has been opened, it has to be stored in the refrigerator. It is usually best to place the leftovers into an airtight container before refrigerating them. Once the container has been opened, the leftovers should be used up within three to four days. When a can has been opened, the contents that are left inside may be stored in the refrigerator or frozen.

Tuna that has been canned may be stored in the freezer for up to three months; however, it must first be transferred to a container that is airtight since the tuna cannot be frozen in the can itself. You could alternatively use a Ziplock bag, in which case the tuna would need to be laid out flat for even freezing, and the air would need to be removed from the bag before it was sealed. Before you put anything in the freezer, make sure you write “canned tuna” and the date it should be frozen on the bag or container.

When you are ready to use the tuna, place it in the refrigerator to thaw so that it is ready to use. This might take as little as a couple of hours or as long as a whole night, depending on how much you have frozen. Never allow food to thaw at room temperature since doing so raises the possibility of becoming sick from eating contaminated food.

How to Tell if Your Canned Tuna is Bad

In the following paragraphs, I will go through the four actions that need to be taken in order to determine whether or not the tuna in the can has gone bad. If you are satisfied with the canned tuna after following these instructions, then it should be alright for you to go ahead and eat it, but if you are ever in any question about anything, then you should always throw it away!

Step 1 – Consider the Date on The Can

The date that is printed on canned tuna is a food product date that says “Best if Used By.” On the other hand, canned tuna that has been kept in a cold and dry environment may maintain its shelf life for up to an additional five years beyond the “Best Before” date.

The date will always include both the month and the year, and it will also specify whether it is “Best if Used By/Before,” “Use By,” or “Must Use By.”

Foods that have a label that says “Must Use By” or anything similar should always be consumed by the specified date. Typically, they are goods that are still fresh, such as meat and poultry.

On canned tuna, the “food product date” is the date that the producer has judged to be within the period in which the quality of the food will be at its finest. This date is printed on the can. It is not a safety signal in the traditional sense, and the fact that the “Best if Used By” date has past does not necessarily indicate that the tuna in the can has gone bad.

When determining the “Best Used By” date for a product, the producer takes into account not only the food but also its packaging, as well as how long the product will be on the market and in what conditions it will be kept. The date lets businesses know for how long they may keep the food on display and how long they have to sell it.

In many cases, the primary reason why families throw away food that would otherwise be safe to consume is due to the misunderstanding around the many terminologies used in the dating of food products.

Manufacturers are not required by federal rules to date their goods, with the exception of baby formula, unless the product is a food that falls under the jurisdiction of the FSIS, such as meat or eggs.

Because of all of these factors, the date that is printed on the can of tuna is not a reliable predictor of whether or not the tuna is spoiled. The date that is printed next to the words “Best Before” indicates the quality of the item, not whether or not it is safe to consume. Cans of food that are beyond their “Best Before” date may still be accepted by charitable groups provided there are no other indications that the food has gone bad (keep on reading to learn more).

When you do decide to purchase new cans, it is a good idea to check the “Best if Used By” dates that are printed on the cans that are already in the pantry. If necessary, rearrange the cans so that the ones that are closer to their expiration date are opened first. This will help prevent the accumulation of a large number of old cans in the pantry.

Step 2 – Consider the Quality of The Tuna Can

Before you even consider opening a can of food, there are a few things you should examine first. This is true for any kind of canned food. Immediately throw away the can if there is any sign that it is leaking in any manner. Leaking cans are an indication that something went wrong during the preparation of the product, which means there is no assurance that the product is safe to consume.

Examine the can carefully for any indications of rust or corrosion. Even if the contents of a rusty can could still be edible, there is a possibility that the corrosion has caused very small holes to form in the can, which would enable air to get into the can and spoil the food within. If the rust spots can be removed with your fingertips, then it should be good to proceed to the next stage.

Although it is possible that damaged tuna in a can may still be consumed safely, it is important to keep in mind that a dent might reduce the product’s shelf life. The FSIS recommends getting rid of the dent if it is deep enough for you to be able to rest your finger in it. If there is a dent on the seam of the can, regardless matter how large it is, the can should be thrown away since the dent may have caused the seam to become damaged.

If, on the other hand, the can is bulging out at either the top or the bottom, you should never use it again! The presence of bulging on a can is often an indication that the pressurization of the can has been compromised, which may lead to the growth of germs within the can. Even more concerning is the possibility that this is an indication of active botulinum spores.

The bacterium Clostridium botulinum is the culprit behind the fortunately uncommon sickness known as botulism. When the circumstances are correct, these bacteria may become active, and once active, C. botulinum emits powerful neurotoxin spores that can be fatal. These bacteria often reside on the ground and in the waters of rivers and the sea, where they do not do any damage.

There have been a few cases of botulinum being related with canned tuna, and in 2015, a brand of albacore tuna was recalled because it was linked to botulinum. There have also been a number of cases of botulinum being linked with canned tuna. In Spain, there was an epidemic of botulinum that occurred more recently, and it caused four individuals to get sick. Canning food at home poses a higher threat of botulism than canning food in a commercial setting.

It is not safe to consume tuna from a can that is leaking, excessively rusty, substantially damaged, or bulging.

If you purchase tuna in pouches, then the same guidelines should be followed. Immediately throw away the bag if it is bursting at the seams or leaking liquid.

Step 3 – Open the Can

When you open the can, there is a possibility that you will hear a loud noise that is distinct from the hiss that you would normally hear, and there is also a possibility that there may be tuna oozing out of the can when you open it. If one of these things occurs, the garbage can should be thrown away.

Even before you have completely taken the cover from the can, you will be able to smell whatever is within the can as soon as you crack it open. Keep in mind that when you open a can of fish or any other kind of canned food, it is very natural for the product to have a very strong odor. The aroma of tuna in a can is strongly reminiscent of cooked flesh and the sea. You should be on the lookout for aromas that are described as “off” or acidic, as well as any other odor that does not smell how canned tuna should smell.

You will be able to detect some of the rancidity in tuna that has been canned in oil since this kind of tuna may also begin to grow rancid.

If you don’t like the way it smells, throw it away and wash your hands well afterward. If you do like the way it smells, keep it.

In addition to the scent, take a good look at the tuna itself. The hue of tuna in a can might change depending on the kind of tuna used to make it. It is possible for manufacturers to treat raw tuna with carbon monoxide before canning it in order to assist the fish in maintaining its color. The color of regular tuna in a can may range from a light pink to a beige color all the way up to a brilliant red color, and it may even have a faint brown hue to it.

If the tuna is spoiled or is in the process of being spoiled, it may have dark brown streaks running through it; in some instances, these streaks may even seem to be black. Sometimes the tuna may have a green hue to it as well. Throw away the tuna as soon as you see that it has streaks or is green in color.

In addition to this, examine the can’s inside for any signs of rust. If there is rust on the inside of the can, you should also throw it away.

It is not safe to consume the tuna if the can bursts into flames when you try to open it, if the inside is rusty, or if the tuna does not smell like canned tuna.

Step 4 – The Taste Test

The taste test is the last phase in the process, and it is only performed when you have successfully completed the three processes that came before it and determined that there was nothing wrong with the process. Simply use a spoon or a fork to remove a very little bit from the container and taste it to determine whether or not it tastes as it should.

Throw it away if it does not have the flavor that you were anticipating it having.

In Summary

It should now be clear to you after reading this piece that there is no simple answer to the issue of how to determine whether canned tuna has gone rotten. Even canned tuna that is a few years over its “Best Before” date may still be edible provided the can is in excellent shape, the tuna smells and looks as it should, and most importantly, the tuna still tastes delicious.

I have made an effort to describe in detail all of the indicators that spoiled canned tuna (or other canned foods) are present, but it bears repeating that you should always err on the side of caution and dispose of it even if you have followed the four steps outlined above and are still unsure whether or not it is safe to eat. It is preferable to lose the money you would have spent on a can of tuna than wind up with a severe case of foodborne disease.

I have faith that you have found this article to be beneficial, and I encourage you to feel free to forward it along to your friends so that they, too, may learn from it. I also hope that the next time you discover a long-forgotten canned tuna, you will feel confident enough to decide whether or not it is safe to consume. This is something I hope will happen.


What happens if you eat bad canned tuna?

These conditions are known as ciguatera toxicity and scombroid poisoning respectively. Abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are some of the signs and symptoms of ciguatera poisoning. The first symptoms may escalate into headaches, pains in the muscles, and tingling, itching, or numbness in the skin. Numbness of the lips, tongue, or region surrounding the mouth is one of the early warning signs that may appear.

What color is bad canned tuna?

A piece of spoiled tuna will often have dark brown streaks, some of which may even seem to be black. These lines of discolouration will be apparent running through the meat, and you should not even attempt to consume it if it has these streaks. Sometimes the tuna may turn green, which is another indication that the tuna has gone rotten and should not be consumed.

What does bad tuna smell like?

Smell. The smell of spoiled tuna is often quite pungent and unpleasant, much like the odor of spoiled lemon juice; this is the surest sign that the tuna has gone bad. If the tuna is warm, you should be able to detect this odor very instantly. If, on the other hand, the tuna is served cooked but chilled, its scent may be muted, but it is still detectable if one sniffs the fish very attentively.

Is expired canned tuna OK to eat?

The vast majority of foods that can be stored for an extended period of time are perfectly safe to consume. In point of fact, so long as the can itself is in excellent shape, the contents of a can will remain edible for many years (no rust, dents, or swelling). Even after the “best by” date has passed, pre-packaged items like cereal, pasta, and cookies are still safe to consume. However, they may gradually grow stale or have an odd taste.

How long does canned tuna last?

If it is kept correctly, unopened tuna in a can will maintain its highest possible quality for around three to five years, but it will typically still be safe to consume beyond that point. Is it okay to consume unopened canned tuna beyond the “expiration” date that is printed on the can or the package?

What are the black bits in canned tuna?

Bloodline and Red Muscle make up the dark portion of the image that you can see. Because it contains a lot of blood, the bloodstream can provide a lot of oxygen. Bloodline is edible and rich in nutrients, despite the fact that many people find the taste and smell of it offensive.

Can you get food poisoning from canned tuna?

As is the case with other types of food, there is a possibility that canned tuna may contain harmful bacteria that may lead to food poisoning or even death. These bacteria include Clostridium botulinum, Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter jejuni, and Escherichia coli, all of which are examples.