Data loading...

Major Grocers Sell Canned Tuna Years Past Shelf Life

Major grocery stores in Canada have been caught selling old cans of tuna with “best before” dates from 2010 to 2012, according to CBC News. The Canadian news program, Go Public, visited 17 major grocery stores in Vancouver and found one-third had outdated cans of fish and seafood on their shelves. In the case of the old cans of tuna, they were being sold alongside new ones, which had best before dates as late as 2015.

The marketing director of popular tuna brand Clover Leaf, Peter Clarke, told CBC that the tuna – despite deteriorated taste, texture and nutritional value – is still safe to eat, indefinitely, unless the can is damaged.

Clarke said when Clover Leaf is notified that product is on a store shelf past its best before date, they send an employee to that store to co-ordinate that product’s removal.

“This has nothing to do with product safety in any way. We do this because consumers do not wish to purchase product that has passed its best before date…best before does not imply bad after,” said Clarke.

An industry source, who has experience in sterilizing tuna cans, however recommends respecting the best before dates. He says it is hard to determine how long tuna can be safely eaten after its best before date because it depends on a number of factors, such as the exact sterilization process used, composition of the tuna, and if oil or water is included to cover the product.

A stricter sterilization process can reduce the potential for spoiled tuna and can yield a longer best before date, compared to a basic thermal process. The source says there is a “high health risk” if a consumer eats a can of tuna after the suggested date because there might be Clostridium botulinum present, bacteria that thrive only in environments without oxygen (such as a tuna can) and can cause paralysis and even death.

In Canada, it is not against the law to sell outdated canned goods. Most manufacturers stamp best before dates on cans voluntarily, but some dates are embedded in a code that consumers can’t decipher.

In terms of health risks associated with eating canned fish after its best before date, the area is not well researched. Food safety experts told CBC there is no proof eating old canned fish will cause illness. But they also said there are no independent studies proving it won’t.

Go Public found the most outdated products in Safeway, where three locations were selling canned tuna and shrimp between one and three years out of date.

Safeway has since initiated a national audit of the best before dates of all its canned fish, seafood and meat on store shelves.