Should this dented can of coconut milk go in the garbage?
November 28, 2017 7:04 AM   Subscribe

Blue Apron sent me this dented can of coconut milk to use in one of its recipes this week. I want to cook said recipe tonight. Must I go buy new coconut milk?

Here is the can.


I read that big dents are dangerous and tiny dents are ok. I have no dent context for what constitutes a big or small dent on a can. Hence, I am asking you.

And yes, I already contacted Blue Apron, but I doubt they will ship me a single can of coconut milk before 7pm. So my choices are use this one, or go buy one. What shall I do?
posted by millipede to Food & Drink (18 answers total)
In my opinion, that is fine. Dents that have created a breach of the can are a problem, creating places for bacteria to get in. That said, Consumer Reports says never do it. USDA says if the dent isn't big enough to lay your finger in it's ok and says look out for "sharp points" in the dent. I would eat this.
posted by jessamyn at 7:08 AM on November 28, 2017 [9 favorites]

Would eat and wouldn't think twice if the dent.
posted by Marinara at 7:10 AM on November 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

I tend to be cautious about dented cans, and I would use that one with barely a second thought. The crease is not sharp enough to have created an opening in the can where bacteria could get in. To be extra sure, take the label off the can and examine the dent for any sharp points that could indicate a tiny hole, as jessamyn mentions above.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:16 AM on November 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

The USDA is super conservative by nature (I regularly ignore many of their guidelines with no ill effect), and they say it's fine.

So this is extra fine.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:23 AM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

My Mom always bought the dented cans on sale. No problems. As long as the seal is intact, you're fine.
posted by theora55 at 7:28 AM on November 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Coconut milk is one of those things that smell bad when they're bad. I say open the can and rely on a sniff test.
posted by MiraK at 7:38 AM on November 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

If it's not bloated or leaking, and there's no damage to the inside of the can, and the product looks and smells fine, you're ok. I worked in a grocery store for many years and took home an incredible number of dented cans, and never had an issue.
posted by Slinga at 8:06 AM on November 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I encountered an inspector in a supermarket once and she told me that the dangerous dents are dents around the top of a can, where the seal is. If there is a dent in the top, the seal is breached and the food probably isn't safe. But she said that if there are dents in the body of the can, like yours, the food is almost certainly safe.
posted by Transl3y at 9:14 AM on November 28, 2017

I got a dented-but-not-bloated can of beets once and when I pierced the can with the can-opener there was an audible hiss of escaping gas. I pitched it immediately. So that would be another danger sign; if you're feeling brave, you can open it and see, but you'd maybe want to have a second can on hand. (Don't know about your house, but we go through a lot of coconut milk anyway because curry.)
posted by BrashTech at 10:01 AM on November 28, 2017

I'd eat it as long as it smells normal. I was honestly expecting a more dramatic dent from your post.
posted by bile and syntax at 11:59 AM on November 28, 2017

I've sorted lots of donated goods at a local food pantry where they give you lots of instruction on what is and isn't good. As mentioned above, the concerns are dents around the seal, and dents that create a sharp point. This would pass at the food pantry, so I would eat it.
posted by thejanna at 12:33 PM on November 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

I cook with a ton of coconut milk for curries, and about half the cans from the brand I like have some kind of dent. They taste fine and have never made me sick.
posted by tautological at 1:16 PM on November 28, 2017

That's pretty much what the can of coconut milk I got from Blue Apron two weeks ago looked like. We used it. We were fine.
posted by karbonokapi at 1:39 PM on November 28, 2017

Dented cans are the major risk factor for botulism, which is potentially fatal.

"Sniff it" is terrible, dangerous advice for doubtful canned goods.

I mean... a can of coconut milk is like $2? Pitch it and go to the store!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:34 AM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Your chances of getting botulism in the US are roughly one in three million and most cases of botulism in the US are from improperly home-canned foods. You are safer eating that coconut milk than getting in your car and driving to the store to get more. Not discounting that there is a risk, but that it's important to determine your tolerance for risk in many of these situations.
posted by jessamyn at 5:37 AM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Update: My tolerance for risk of botulism turned out to be extremely low, so I walked one block to the grocery store and bought a new can.
posted by millipede at 7:35 AM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree that the risk is very small, but still- "sniff it!" is dangerous, irresponsible, and misleading advice for canned food safety, given that unsealed cans present an unlikely-but-very-severe risk that is explicitly un-sniffable.

And we know the poster is already rather risk-averse, since they asked this question at all.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:39 AM on November 29, 2017

so I walked one block to the grocery store and bought a new can.

It was probably more risky to walk the one block than it was to eat the dented can. I mean it really is no big deal either way, but if you want to actually look at risk, you need careful calibration.
posted by koolkat at 7:02 AM on November 30, 2017

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