How Long Does Canned Tuna Last?

Canned tuna is a convenient, fast, long-lasting, and versatile food one can always fall back on. Does canned tuna go bad, though? Yes, it does. We did some digging for you and looked into every little detail, ranging from the benefits of canned tuna to its spoilage and expiry.

In this article, we will let you in on all the information. So, if you want to find out about your storage choices and when it is time to look for other fish in the sea, keep reading!


 How long does canned tuna last?


While we do suggest reading the canned tuna label before purchasing (because the information and instructions differ), we will let you in on a secret. The dates specified on tuna cans, such as “best before” or “use by,” have more to do with the quality of canned tuna rather than food safety.

Canned tuna, if undamaged and properly stored, comes with a shelf life of 2-5 years (the average being four). However, once the can is opened, the shelf life for consumption reduces to 3-5 days.


How to tell if your can of tuna has gone bad (before or after the expiration date)?


Quick external check

Even before you open and check the can, inspect it from the outside. If the tuna can is visibly spoiled and you see that it is broken, swollen, rusted, or leaking (we’re sure you get the idea), we recommend saying bye to the can.


Smell it


The next step is getting a little closer to the contents. Open the can (the process ends here if you hear a loud hissing sound while opening the can) and sniff it. If it smells fishy (acidic or just off) more than it smells like fish (and oil), throw it.



We want you to look at the fish thoroughly. If there is a layer of bubbles, mold, slime (that is not oil or any other preservative), or a sticky texture, discard the canned tuna.



Feel free to get a little racist in this case and do judge your tuna by its color. The tuna in the can needs to be pink or reddish-light brown. What will tip you off? Colors such as green, dark brown, and even black. Even if it is just spots or minor discoloration, you know what to do.




Taste it. We don’t want you to make an entire sandwich out of it – we only want you to ingest a small amount. The taste of tuna is the easiest way to tell if your canned tuna is consumable. If the taste is bad or acidic or doesn’t feel right, it is time tu-not keep it around.

Author’s note: live by this motto, “When in doubt, throw it out.”


What happens if you eat spoiled tuna from a can?


If you manage to eat the canned tuna after not noticing any of the signs mentioned above (and the awful taste), there will be certain side effects, no matter how much you cooked the spoiled tuna.

The worst-case scenario is food poisoning. We suggest looking out for symptoms such as nausea, fever, fatigue, stomach cramps, etc.

Moreover, there is also the possibility of contracting a poisoning specific to fish (known as scombroid poisoning). The symptoms include effects such as diarrhea and blurred vision.

Author’s note – If you experience any symptoms or sheer discomfort, we’d suggest taking rest and staying hydrated, and if it is a severe case, the only cure is by going to the doctor.


Can you freeze canned tuna?

Yes, freezing canned tuna is an option that will make your tuna last longer (up to three months). But this area is a little tricky.

  • Original container – if you freeze canned tuna in its metal can, it can be a bad idea because metal reacts to cold. So, chances are, your container can shrink or get overcooled.
  • Air-tight glass/plastic containers or bags – this is a safer option because the container will be air-tight and will not react to the cold.


How to thaw canned tuna?

There are two ways to thaw canned tuna. Irrespective of your chosen method, the goal is to ensure that the tuna is soft enough not to resist a fork or spoon.

The best (and most trusted) way of thawing frozen, canned tuna is by putting it in the refrigerator for a day (1-3 days does the trick). This method helps the tuna lose extensive coolness without compromising its texture or taste.

The second and quicker way is by taking the container or plastic bag in which the frozen tuna is stored and put it in warm water.

Author’s note – do not leave frozen tuna at room temperature for defrosting as it risks exposure to bacteria.


The label


To reiterate, labels are important. With regard to canned tuna, especially the kind manufactured and seen dominating in the Indian market, the cans come with one or more of these disclaimers –

  • Once opened, consume immediately.
  • Best before 24 months from the date of mfg (manufacturing).
  • Store in a cool and dry place.


The benefits of eating canned tuna


Believe it or not, the nutrients and goodness of foods can fit in a tin can. For starters, canned tuna contains low fats and calories. But it gets better because you know what canned tuna does contain in higher amounts? Protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin D and selenium).

To break it down further, canned tuna can aid weight loss and blood circulation and support bones and the immune system. Moreover, canned tuna is good for the heart and the eyes and is not a drastic downgrade from fresh tuna because the nutrient content does not differ much.


 A loophole in seafood allergies

We come bearing a fun fact! Canned tuna is something people with seafood allergies can also eat. While processing tuna, the allergenicity is lost, and eating canned tuna does not lead to severe or life-threatening effects.


How often can you consume canned tuna?

You can safely consume canned tuna 2-3 times a week. But what’s the catch, you ask? The amount of intake. Think of it this way – if you open a can of tuna, you (alone) can finish it in a week. Would we recommend two cans a week, though? No. So, the absolute safe limit is around 180g a week.

This changes with regard to children and pregnant women. Why? Because fish contain mercury (yes, the kind found in thermometers). The bigger the fish, the higher it is in the food chain, and the more mercury it has.

While tuna is recognized as a fish with low mercury levels, it does, at the end of the day, contain the compound known as methylmercury. This compound affects pregnant women and children as they rapidly absorb nutrients for development.

Author’s note – it is vital to consume canned tuna in moderation to avoid the risk and possibility of mercury poisoning.


 How to store canned tuna

Proper storage makes products safe for consumption and gives them a longer shelf life. To help you rightly store and consume this grocery staple, the following are some things you should keep in mind –


Pantry/Cool and dry place


If you haven’t opened the canned tuna and plan to store it for a long time, you can keep it at room temperature (which is a better idea than refrigeration because there is a risk of overcooling). The canned tuna can last for 2-5 years in this scenario.

However, room temperature is not the best place to store canned tuna once it is opened. If the can is left open (for over two hours) or is stored in temperatures above 32° Celsius, do not eat it.



This storage option comes in handy and works better once the canned tuna has been opened. Since opening the product reduces its shelf life to 3-5 days, it becomes vital to store it correctly in a clean environment, away from moisture and bacteria (the fridge).

Author’s note – cover the open can with aluminum foil or plastic saran wrap while putting it in the fridge to reduce exposure.

Some tips –

  • Do not consume canned tuna if the can is broken or swollen.
  • While the seal protects the canned tuna from foodborne illnesses, we recommend washing the entire can before opening it for food safety.


Refrigerator Pantry
Unopened – risk of overcooling. Unopened – better in the pantry. Lasts 2-5 years.
Opened – better in the fridge. Lasts 3-5 days. Opened – if left open for over two hours (especially in temperatures above 32° Celsius), canned tuna can go bad.




1. How long does canned tuna last?

Canned tuna has a long shelf life of 2-5 years when unopened. However, once opened, the storage conditions guide the product’s shelf life, and it lasts the longest in the freezer (up to three months).


2. Can canned tuna spoil?

As long-lasting as it is, canned tuna does spoil. To check if your canned tuna is safe for consumption, keep an eye out for the tell-tale signs such as the color (which should only be reddish-brown or pink), the condition of the can (which should not be damaged, dented, swollen, rusted, or leaking), etc.


3. Where to store canned tuna?

It would be best to store canned tuna in a cool and dry place. The pantry is the best option if you haven’t opened your canned tuna and want it to last longer. If you have opened your canned tuna, keep it in the fridge or freezer for more durable storage.



We leave you with one final message – your health is your responsibility, and the easiest part of that responsibility is keeping a close check on what you eat. Moreover, no food lasts forever, so proper storage becomes as necessary as consumption.

Do not ignore the signs; if you don’t inspect the label, inspect the product before you consume it. Happy and safe eating!

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