Should I buy cans with a dent?

You might find the odd tinned food item on the supermarket shelf or in the reduced to clear section with a dent. Is there any reason to avoid purchasing cans with a dent?

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I would have no issue buying a tin/can with a dent on the side walls or the middle of the can’s ends, as long as the can’s integrity still intact.

I would not buy a can if the dent was on one of the end compressed seams as it is possible that at the time of denting, a small amount of air entered the can if the seal was temporarily broken.

If there was evidence of a split in the can, the can being bloated (most likely through microbial live within the can) or one of the joins leaking, I would also not buy it.

Most cans now days are lined with a plastic coating. This coating is flexible and will remain on the inside of the can even though the can has a dent in it.

It could have been problematic with some older style cans were the insides were only tin-plated. The tinplate could lift or split, especially around the side wall join, when dented (it is less flexible than the plastic linings) The contents of the can would then be in contact with can steel, making it corrode over time. This corrosion can lead to air penetrating the can spoiling the contents. Spoilt contents means higher risk of food poisoning or money wasted on the purchase of the can.


I recall my grandmother telling me to stay clear of any can with apparent damage. I think she issued this caution in an era when spoilage in a can was far more likely than today. The art has improved in 50 years. One sign to look out for was swollen cans, this was a sign of inadequate sterilisation and the contents were producing gas anaerobically.I have never seen such a thing and I think a batch that wasn’t sterile is very unlikely to be released these days. If I did see that I would bin it unopened - botulism is a bitch. Any can that is pressurised when you open it would be bin food too regardless of damage. But what about dents?

There are two ways for a dent to cause trouble. One is to break the seal and allow microbes in. The other is to break the food-safe surface inside the can and allow contamination inside from the steel body. If the dent isn’t bad and there is no sign of leakage, rust or an open seam I wouldn’t be concerned as the chance of either problem is then vanishingly small.

Some disagree saying that you shouldn’t risk a can with any damage. To me such simple rules take away any question of judgement, if that is how you work or you doubt your judgement then use it. If you want to be cautious I wouldn’t try to talk you out of it but point out that life has risks and those who play the game best are those who evaluate those risks well. The incautious get food poisoning, the over-cautious miss out on the bargains but there may be a middle path. You pays your money and you takes your choice.


A small non-kinked bend doesn’t stop me buying a can if it looks ok under close inspection, but if I spot a kink I usually put the can aside so that store staff can remove it.

I spotted one a few years ago in a Woolworths store- a can of dog food in a friend’s trolley looked like it was about to explode- a serious amount of bulging on the ends and sides of the can. It was carefully removed and handed to store staff.


… sometimes it is ‘normal’ for food in the can to cause it to bulge … for a given definition of ‘normal’.


One can out of 4 looking like a bomb, and no bulging in the other 3, was I thought a pretty good indicator :wink:

Fruit juice containers can also develop a bulge due to fermentation. Sometimes it just gives the juice a bit of a fiz (and very low alcohol content), and other times it can make you vomit. I know this from experience :wink:


Well that’s it then, no more Tuckerbox on toast for lunch.


If the bulge is inward, it depends on the extent of the damage. If there is any chance the can has been perforated, and that includes the top and bottom seals, then I leave it.

If it’s bulging outward, then it is a no go!


As long as the dent is minimal, not on a seam/seal or rim, has no sharp angles/creases then we will purchase it but will use it first before others. It it has any of the aforementioned faults we remove it from the shelf and give it to a store employee for them to deal with. Any can that has a bulge must be suspected of being compromised in it’s safety to use and we then also bring it to a staff person. As some are sold in opened boxes we normally show the staff the box as in the case of bulges this can be a batch problem not just an individual can.

If a seam/seal has broken not all cans will show bulging as the gas build up is able to vent and so the can does not distort, though many times some of the contents may be forced out (particularly liquids) and if these are seen the can should be disposed of by getting a staff member to remove it. There is a chance that the shopper could contact the contents, they should not touch it and should immediately get staff to remove it. Salmonella or Botulinum organisms and toxin can be present in the expressed contents and should only be handled with protective gloves.


Warning OT!

This reminded me of an incident before microwaves were common where an experienced cook of my acquaintance wanted to heat a tin of mushrooms for lunch. No it wasn’t me but somebody much older and wiser.

The oven was already going so he put the tin into it instead of a pot of boiling water. He opened it a while later with a basic can opener but only got as far as the first piercing. The tin started turning like those fireworks that spin around and fly across the yard. As the tin spun it sent out a jet of super-heated mushrooms and sauce and he and the kitchen were sprayed in a pattern of stripes as high as the ceiling. He spent the afternoon washing walls from a ladder.


Was always told that a dent might mean the air is coming in somewhere… so I stay away… haven’t bought a tin of anything in ages… bought condensed milk as I want to make dulce de leche.

Dented tins sometimes let out a woosh sound when you open them. Definitely bin then,


Yes - last time I tried to be nice about it and took a dented can home from Woolworths, I found when I went to open it that there was a split in the metal at the bottom of the dent, and the can had been left open because of it. On an open shelf, this automatically results in the food inside becoming unsafe to eat, within a matter of hours - and it was several weeks before I found the problem. In fact, when I opened the can I found the contents were mouldy and “off”, and that was when I noticed the split in the can.


Woolworths will exchange or refund if you open a can like this. Hope you returned it.


Yes if you have the receipt - it was too late by the time I opened it, I’d already trashed the receipt. And I do see their point in having that requirement. But the lesson is there - DON’T buy “damaged goods”. Never before in my lifetime has it ever been more true to say “you are what you eat”. Ignoring that might save time or money - but eventually you might spend a great deal more time & money, in a hospital bed or with ongoing health problems, if you ignore this principle.


I have returned products to Woolworths without a receipt No questions were asked. It my have been because I said I wanted an exchange not a refund.


It may vary from state to state - or perhaps from store to store. Anyway, no I didn’t - I am just very watchful now, after that experience. Another practice I despise is the way some of the staff in these supermarkets throw the merchandise around. Not interested in saying “who”, because it was the staff doing it, not the store manager. Biscuits chucked on the floor from 2 or 3 metres away, as they came off the trolley. No wonder we sometimes buy a packet of biscuits and find the contents are just biscuit crumbs!


No, it is a nationwide policy.

Woolworths Returns Policy

This policy states ‘If the product you buy from Woolworths Supermarkets is faulty or if you are not satisfied with it, then we will cheerfully refund the purchase price, exchange or repair the product.’

It also says…‘Without Proof of Purchase
Products with a purchase price of less than $15 will be either exchanged, refunded in cash or reimbursed in the original payment method.’


Surely its a case of taking each case on its merits. If theres an alternative non -dented can then take that one. If the dented can is the final one - watch out. Alternatively have a good look at it - or perhaps its at a reduced cost - use your discretion… Seems
like common sense really.


The situtaion is much more simple these days. Cans are not lined with harmful coatings as in the past. Dents in the sides of cans like a ‘push in’ not a sharp edged dent, are very unlikley to cause harm to those eating the contents. Just beware of badly dented cans that may have a small pinhole opening in the lid area - but again, badly dented cans are removed by the stores as unsaleable so shallow side dents are quite OK.


Woolies sell there bent cans a bit cheaper as the items are insured for damage.
i was told this by staff after i questioned the issue.Does depend on the extent of damage etc
if i buy them…