Canned salmon makes the weeknight preparation of salmon patties, croquettes and burgers a breeze. However, it is important to take note of the condition of your salmon and its can before using to ensure that it is safe for consumption. While the risks of spoilage in commercially canned goods is slim, it is important to know what to look for to ensure your salmon won’t make you sick.

Spoilage Indications

Any bulging, leaking or badly dented cans of salmon should be discarded as these are the most typical signs of spoilage. If you open a can of salmon and detect any foul odors, milky liquids surrounding the fish or the can spurts as you open it, discard the can and its contents. Ensure to throw away spoiled foods so that animals and humans will not come into contact with them. For example, double-bag spoiled food in plastic and toss it into a receptacle not used for recyclables.

Spoilage Risks

While very rare, the botulism toxin can grow in canned salmon if the fish is not properly processed. To kill botulism, foods must be processed in a pressure canner to kill not only the botulism organism, but also the spore that is prolific at growing in a low-acid, anaerobic environment. Other spoilage can also occur if bacteria is able to enter the can during storage, which is why it is important to inspect cans and their seals before using the contents.

Canned Salmon Storage

In addition to potentially deadly botulism caused by incorrect processing, there are other forms of spoilage that can affect canned salmon. However, these typically result from poor storage conditions. Thermophyllic bacteria that react to high temperatures can also cause food spoilage. In this case, the spoilage is not deadly, but does create food that is of poor quality and noticeably spoiled. To avoid this spoilage, store all canned salmon in a cool, dry place below 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not store canned goods under the sink, next to the stove or in a damp garage. Check “sell-by” dates on your canned salmon before using it and rotate older stock to the front of your cupboard. It’s important to note that “use-by” dates do not indicate safety; they are used for quality purposes.

Can Damage

Damaged cans can allow harmful bacteria to enter and grow within the contained food. Rusted cans have tiny holes in them that can allow bacteria to enter. Discard rusted cans if you cannot remove the rust by rubbing your finger across the can’s surface. Any can that is dented so greatly that you can lay your finger into the dent should also be discarded. If any dent lies on the seam of a can, it should always be discarded. Do not allow canned goods to freeze. If they have frozen and thawed, discard them. If they are frozen, they can safely be defrosted in the refrigerator. As with any canned good, if it smells or looks bad, discard it without tasting it.