Is It Actually Dangerous To Eat Food From A Bloated Can?

Life is short, love can fade, even the sun itself will eventually burn out, but canned food? Canned food is forever.

Well, almost forever. Food in a can, whether its peaches, or soup, or Spam does indeed keep for a very long time, but there are still some warning signs to look for to avoid eating something spoiled. According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), all canned food should be closely inspected thoroughly before opening and eating. Any damage to the can must be carefully assessed before the contents can be eaten. Perforations, dents, or deformations of any kind on the can are potential indications of spoilage.

Swelling and bulging in particular are telling signs that the food inside has begun to go bad and is causing the abnormal shape. If you see a bloated can, it's usually just a safer bet to not open the can at all and just throw it out; but if you're still unsure, you can open the can and inspect the insides. Signs of spoilage will vary depending on the actual contents of the can but in general, discoloration, abnormal growths of some kind (like mold), and foul odors are indications of spoilage.

What causes the swelling

Microbial spoilage and the hydrogen gas it produces — which occurs through the interaction between the metal of the can and acids from the contents — are the principal culprits for a bloated can, per the FDA. There are also microbes that do not release gas but can still render the food inside the can inedible; thereby, they may not cause swelling but still can cause spoilage.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as a rule, it is best to never consume food in a bloated can as the likelihood of spoilage is quite high. Likewise cans that are leaking, badly dented, or have loose lids should also be avoided. These cans run the particularly dangerous risk of containing Clostridium botulinum, which can be fatal even in small quantities; for this reason, you should never attempt to taste canned food to test whether or not it is safe. If you see a bloated can, it is just safest to dispose of it promptly.