Do I have to boil canned food, specially tuna can, in water for twenty minutes? I think it's necessary to prevent food poisoning by botulism. However, currently that I am in Europe, I have not seen a written passage on tuna can to advise people to boil the can before consumption, or did I miss to see such a thing?

  • 5
    Please note that besides the correct answers, boiling will not protect you against botulism. Neither the spores nor the toxin produced by the bacteria are inactivated by simple boiling.
    – BowlOfRed
    Jan 10, 2015 at 21:33
  • 1
    @BowlOfRed That's incorrect. Botulinum toxin is inactivated by boiling. See wayback.archive-it.org/7993/20170405001311/https:/www.fda.gov/… if you want a source.
    – Sneftel
    Nov 12, 2019 at 16:43

3 Answers 3


No, you should not need to boil your canned food. Most canned foods have already been heated to boiling — or higher — temperatures to kill all microbes as part of the canning process. Seafood is heated to temperatures even higher than boiling and canned under pressure.

Canned food is, by definition, sterilized and hermetically sealed so unless you believe the seal on the can is compromised, canned food is safe to eat as-is.

If you don't trust that it was properly canned, or you think the can's seal is broken, then simply don't eat it, boiled or otherwise.

It's interesting to note that canned food over 100 years old has been opened and — despite losing its flavor and nutritional value — deemed safe to eat.

  • If OP is referring to contamination through the outside of the can, so yes; you need at least to wash it before opening. For example, when you open a can of condensed milk, it tends to leak through the lid. And if the can was not properly stored, there's a chance to be contaminated with something. It's the same reason why we wash fruits and vegetables before eating. Altough it will not protect agains botulism specifically, washing with boiling water and soap will eliminate other germs that may be in the can.
    – Croves
    Nov 12, 2019 at 15:05

Commercially canned food (at least in reasonably wealthy countries, which I think would include at least all of the EU) is safe to eat straight out of the can. Provided the can is undamaged, of course. Damaged, bulging, etc. cans should be discarded.

You didn't say what country in specific you're in, but your country's health, food safety, etc. department should have specific guidelines to your country, if any are needed.

  • 5
    Or to think of it another way, if canning did somehow leave the food prone to growing bacteria, we wouldn't be storing canned goods long-term at room temperature!
    – Cascabel
    Jan 10, 2015 at 5:55

You definitely need to boil the can in order to prevent yourself from possible poisoning. It's not about trust or truth it's about your own safety.

  • 3
    What poisons do you expect in canned food?
    – Tinuviel
    Nov 10, 2019 at 19:46
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    Surely, you don't boil every can of everything you open, do you?
    – ElmerCat
    Nov 11, 2019 at 9:03
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    this doesn't make any sense, and as already mentioned boiling will not protect you against botulism.
    – Luciano
    Nov 11, 2019 at 9:44

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