Q&A: Is it OK to buy dented food cans at the supermarket?

Consumer Reports News: May 04, 2010 06:08 AM

Is it OK to buy dented food cans at the supermarket? —E.E.B., Vernon, CT

It’s perfectly fine to use a can right after you’ve dropped it on the floor, even if it’s a little dented. But you definitely want to avoid buying cans that are already dented or damaged. It’s tempting to buy dented cans that are marked down, but the bargain isn’t worth it. Those cans could contain a dangerous bacteria called Clostridium botulinum. The organism is extremely rare, but its toxin can be deadly. So don’t take any chances.

Look in your pantry and get rid of any cans that are badly dented, leaking, bulging, or rusted (wear disposable gloves while you’re at it). It’s possible that a contaminated can might have looked normal in the store but later developed a bulge while sitting on your shelf. If you find a can that is questionable, don’t open or puncture it. Get rid of it by placing the can in a sealable bag, wrapping another plastic bag around the sealable bag, and then taping tightly. Put the bag in a trash bin for nonrecyclable items outside of your home—and out of reach of people and pets. Don’t put the food in a sink, garbage disposal, or toilet. To be safe, wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly after handling any food or containers that might have been contaminated.

Read more on how to avoid foodborne illness  and see our recent tests that uncovered BPA in canned foods .

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