I have some canned sardines that expire in April. It's still January, I opened one and it smelled stronger than I remember, and tasted differently (almost like cheese, sort-of). It may just be because I have been eating a different brand for a while, but how could this be if they aren't expired yet?

These are King Oscar bristling sardines (in a red package)

  • 3
    If the seal had been compromised it would be possible for them to have gone off, but I'd expect mould in that case. Now you've opened them of course you can't tell whether the seal was OK or not.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 8:02
  • They do not taste quite right, they are all still in the wrapping, even.
    – bobiscool
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 8:07

1 Answer 1


The expiration date is (as it were) a red herring. Food doesn't suddenly go off on the expiration date. Most foods are just fine well past the expiration date; it's just the the manufacturer isn't willing to guarantee it any longer.

And all bets are off if something happened to the can. It might be hard to tell if a can of sardines was compromised. It would require only a pinhole, and sardines are usually packaged with weak spots in the can.

In your case it sounds as if the can was probably fine, since fish tends to go off in ways that are really, really obvious.

It could simply be that this is a different batch of fish. The name "sardine" applies to several different species, living in a variety of environments. That will affect the flavor.

There are many other variables as well: how they were harvested, how they were stored, how they were processed. Any of these could lead to different flavors.

If you didn't like it, you should return the can to the store. They will likely give you a refund, and push the information up the chain to the manufacturer. They're usually pretty good about that: they really, really hate it when people get food poisoning from products they sell. And it's far cheaper to give refunds to the few people who complain than to fight with a lot of customers over $3 worth of canned fish.

  • When I attempted to eat it, I could not continue, it was moderately unpleasant and I threw one of the cans out.
    – bobiscool
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 4:45

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