Eating Expired Tuna: What will Happen?

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Canned tuna is a popular and convenient source of protein, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids.

It is often used for making sandwiches, salads, and other dishes. However, canned tuna can go bad if not stored or used correctly, and consuming spoiled canned tuna can lead to foodborne illnesses.

If you accidentally eat expired tuna, you may experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, or headache.

These symptoms can occur within hours or days after eating the spoiled tuna, depending on the type and amount of bacteria or toxins present in the tuna.

This is because canned tuna can contain harmful microorganisms such as Clostridium botulinum, Staphylococcus aureus, or Salmonella, or chemical contaminants such as mercury or histamine.

These substances can cause food poisoning or allergic reactions in some people.

Clostridium botulinum can produce a deadly toxin that affects the nervous system and causes botulism, a rare but serious illness that can lead to paralysis or death.

Staphylococcus aureus can produce a toxin that causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Salmonella can cause gastroenteritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines.

Mercury can accumulate in the body and damage the brain, kidneys, and nervous system.

Histamine can cause an allergic reaction that manifests as flushing, itching, rash, or difficulty breathing.

It is quite uncommon to eat expired tuna due to the long shelf life of canned tuna and the expiration date printed on the can.

However, some people may overlook the date or store the tuna improperly, increasing the risk of spoilage.

You can prevent or treat the effects of eating expired tuna by following these steps:

  • Check the expiration date and the condition of the can before opening or using the tuna. Discard any cans that are leaking, bulging, rusting, or severely dented.
  • Transfer any leftover tuna to an airtight container and refrigerate it. Use it within 3-5 days or discard it.
  • Avoid freezing canned tuna as it can affect its texture and flavor.
  • If you experience any symptoms of food poisoning or allergic reaction after eating tuna, seek medical attention immediately. Drink plenty of fluids and rest until you recover.
  • To reduce your exposure to mercury, limit your intake of high-mercury fish such as albacore and yellowfin tuna. Choose low-mercury fish such as skipjack and light tuna instead.

To avoid accidental eating of expired tuna, store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or heat sources.

Rotate your stock and use the oldest cans first.

Label the cans with the date of purchase or opening to keep track of their freshness.

Finally, remember, canned tuna is a nutritious and convenient food product, but it can also pose health risks if not handled properly.

Always check the quality and safety of your tuna before consuming it and follow the best practices for storing and using it.

About the Author

Abdur Rahman Choudhury

Abdur Rahman Choudhury is a nutrition coach with over 7 years of experience in the field of nutrition.

He holds a Bachelor's (B.Sc.) and Master's (M.Sc.) degree in Biochemistry from The University of Burdwan, India. He was also involved with a research project about genetic variations in the CYP11A gene among PCOS and Metabolic Syndrome patients.

He has completed the following online courses: Stanford Introduction to Food and Health by Stanford University (US) through Coursera, Certificate in Nutrition from Fabulous Body Inc. (US), Lose Weight and Keep It Off certificate course from Harvard Medical School (US), and Nutrition and Disease Prevention by Taipei Medical University (Taiwan) through FutureLearn.

Abdur currently lives in India and keeps fit by weight training and eating mainly home-cooked meals.

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