The answer may actually surprise you.
When it comes to opening up a can of beans for stuffing tacos or whipping up a quick and easy protein-packed salad, it’s a no brainer. Beans are incredibly versatile and nutritious, so it makes sense they’d be a staple for both vegetarians and meat lovers.
However, what if the can has a dent in it? Are you still able to break into it and prepare a week of meals?
It Really Depends on the Dent
When it comes to a dented can, the size and location of the dent matters most, says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, dietitian, food safety expert, and cookbook author.
“Usually dents on cans are caused by the cans falling or being hit. This can be problematic if it is in the seam of the can, as it can allow the bacteria to enter the can and potentially make someone sick,” she says. So, if your can has a dent in the seam, it’s worth tossing in order to protect your health.
If there isn’t much damage, you should be okay. “If a can containing food has a small dent, but is otherwise in good shape, the food should be safe to eat,” she explains. So, if you have a can of tuna that has a tiny bend in a harmless spot and seems otherwise okay, feel free to open it up and see how it looks.
Yet, any larger of a dent is worrisome. “If the can has a deep dent then it should be discarded. A deep dent is defined as one that you can lay your finger into,” she says. Cans with large dents or dents on the seam should definitely be discarded.
Why is this something to avoid? “Deep dents often have sharp points and a share dent on either the top or side seam can damage the seam and allow bacteria to enter the can,” she explains.
And, while any sort of canned food is susceptible to dents and damage, and it doesn’t matter the type of food that is inside in terms of safety—only the dent itself is a factor.
So, examine the damage if you do end up bringing home a dented can from the grocery store. Your best bet is to try and avoid purchasing damaged cans, to completely nix the risk.
However, if you drop it on the way upstairs or notice the dent after you bought it, just use these rules as a guide to make sure you stay as safe as possible.