I bought a case of canned fish on Amazon, and when it arrived nearly every can was dented in some way. A total of two cans had no discernable denting, six had mild denting on the side, and four can had serious denting around the tops. It seems pretty obvious this is because a dozen 15 ounce cans were simply packed into a cardboard box barely large enough to hold them and without any extra padding they were then shipping across the county.

I have done a bit of reading and am seeing some conflicting advice. The general consensus seems to be that it's not the actual dent in the can that is the problem, it's bacteria. But this could be caused either by bacteria producing gases which cause the can to swell, in case the can should be thrown out immediately, or the denting could compromise the integrity of the can allowing bacteria into the can in which case it seems like more of a gray area.

All of the cans seem to still have their seal, which is bordering on amazing (to me anyway) for the cans which appear to have had a run-in with a shark. See picture below: enter image description here If the cans are safe to eat I'm fine with keeping them, and I'm a bit hesitant to immediately return them because first of all I was planning on making my lunch from one of the cans today, and second, it appears this may be the norm for shipping - this is a "subscribe and save" item and the original label suggests this is actually how they are shipped from the manufacturer to the local distribution centers.

Is it safe to assume that if I open the can and there isn't a hiss from pressure being released and everything smells ok then it's probably safe? And if so, is there some reduced shelf life, or should I refrigerate everything to be safe until it gets eaten?

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    I would suggest contacting Amazon. Let them know that some of the cans are dented badly enough that you are concerned about the safety of the product. Over the years, I've had very few issues but, when i have, they've promptly replaced the product or refunded my payment when replacing was not an option. And they've never asked me to return a defective product. They've always said that I could do whatever I want with it. – Cindy Oct 8 at 17:43
up vote 6 down vote accepted

From the USDA :

Is it safe to use food from dented cans?

If a can containing food has a small dent, but is otherwise in good shape, the food should be safe to eat. Discard deeply dented cans. A deep dent is one that you can lay your finger into. Deep dents often have sharp points. A sharp dent on either the top or side seam can damage the seam and allow bacteria to enter the can. Discard any can with a deep dent on any seam.

I definitely would be hesitant to use any cans dented like the one in the picture. And as per my comment above, I would contact Amazon.

  • Could bacteria enter the seam even if air can't? (i.e. if the can still seems to have not lost its seal) – Michael Oct 8 at 18:59
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    A can like the one in your picture would be considered to have a major defect that could damage the seal while not having any visible signs like leaking. It's not always whether there is actually a puncture or hole that can leak or let air in, the compromised seal can make the product unsafe. Think about a product in a jar. if the "button" on the top is up, you know not to use that product as it may be unsafe. Yet the lid is still secure on the jar and doesn't leak or let air in. To make matters worse, you have no way of knowing when the dents occurred or how the product has been stored. – Cindy Oct 8 at 19:21
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    Fair enough... better safe than sorry :-) – Michael Oct 8 at 19:51

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