Is my kitchen a hazmat zone now?
December 3, 2012 6:34 PM   Subscribe

The can of soup hissed at me so I tossed it. Can the can opener be saved?

Ok, so I just opened a can of lentil soup and it let out a distinct hissing noise. I decided to err on the side of caution and tossed the whole thing. Should I sanitize my can opener? Stick it in a pot of boiling water? How long? It's all metal.
posted by fozzie_bear to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You'll be fine dude. Wash it if you like.
posted by Think_Long at 6:36 PM on December 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

It's metal. Wash it well (which you should do anyway after contact with food) and you'll be fine.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:40 PM on December 3, 2012

Wash it. Same as you'd do any other time you got it dirty. If it'll bear sticking in the dishwasher, I'd do that and call it a day.
posted by valkyryn at 6:40 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

What? Scrub it with soap and hot water, or put it in your dishwasher. It'll be ok.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 6:40 PM on December 3, 2012

Best answer: If you think there's any chance the can had botulism, boiling the can opener for 10 minutes will absolutely disinfect it, per the NJ Extension Service.

I am pretty germophobic but would probably feel fine about just washing it in a light bleach solution.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:44 PM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Hissing can: chance of botulism, as mentioned above. And since the botulinum toxin is the "most accutely toxic substance known", with a quarter of a millionth of a gram being sufficient to kill an adult, some reasonable precautions are appropriate. Boiling or bleaching the utensil will inactivate the toxin; merely washing it isn't adequate.
posted by Dimpy at 7:13 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all. I spaced out and didn't notice that it has a plastic part. I'm soaking it in a bleach solution now.
posted by fozzie_bear at 7:45 PM on December 3, 2012

I think it should be noted that botulism has been essentially eliminated from modern commercial canning in the United States. There have been 8 cases in 40 years, all in 2007, all from hot dog chili sauce from the Castleberry Food Company in Atlanta. The most recent case before 2007 was in 1971.

So assuming your lentil soup was a commercial item the odds of it having had botulism toxin were practically nil. Just wash your opener.

People hear about botulism and so think it is still a problem with commercial canning, but when people get botulism now it is from home canning. Or feeding honey to infants. And so on.
posted by Justinian at 8:20 PM on December 3, 2012 [11 favorites]

I forgot to say: Your can probably hissed from being vacuum packed. It isn't unusual.
posted by Justinian at 8:22 PM on December 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Right, for future reference, did you notice whether it hissed because air was sucked in (good), or air was pushed out (bad)?
posted by carter at 8:34 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I couldn't tell if the air was going in or out. I read about the vacuum effect on the USDA website, but I hadn't had this happen with this brand before (Amy's). It was a definite hiss more than the quick pop-suck sound that I think is caused by a vacuum seal.
posted by fozzie_bear at 8:55 PM on December 3, 2012

It could've just hissed because the can had warmed up or cooled down from when it was originally canned, thus changing the volume of the air inside. That seems a lot more likely to me than botulism. But hey, it won't hurt to boil that can opener as long as the can opener itself won't be damaged.
posted by Scientist at 1:13 AM on December 4, 2012

I get cans hissing when opened all the time. It's the release of the vacuum inside.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:45 AM on December 4, 2012

Just as a data point, last year I opened a 3-year old can of HEB store brand tomato sauce. The lid definitely had a noticeable bulge, and it didn't let out the usual gentle hiss but a loud soda-can opening hiss. One other can had the bulge, we knew it would hiss loudly, and it did, so I've seen enough evidence that bad cans are indeed out there. I'm not sure how that compares with the reports of reports of botulism being almost eliminated, or maybe there are other anoxic kinds of bacteria out there that aren't as toxic. In any case we just rinsed the can opener with dish soap and water and all was fine.
posted by crapmatic at 7:50 AM on December 4, 2012

Also, wash your can opener (assuming it's handheld?) in your dishwasher if you have one. End of problem. (Hot water cycle with heated dry cycle, of course.)
posted by Lynsey at 9:41 AM on December 4, 2012

Don't leave your opener in the bleach too long - it will rust parts!

And, for future reference: if it hisses, look closely at the puncture site and can opener. Outgassing will often leave droplets of food around the hole; suck-in never will. So: Spatter=Throw it!
posted by IAmBroom at 10:44 AM on December 4, 2012

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