Eating Accidentally Frozen Canned Food Is A Disaster Waiting To Happen

You accidentally leave a bag of groceries in your car overnight in sub-zero temperatures. Or, your power goes out for a day and you just so happen to have a stockpile of canned goods in your partially finished basement. Whatever the case may be, however, it happened; and now you have some accidentally frozen canned food on your hands. Is it safe to eat?

Maybe, maybe not. The problem with eating accidentally frozen canned food isn't in the freezing. Instead, it's all about the thawing. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), if a can of food has frozen and then thawed — outside of the refrigerator — then it's unsafe to eat. That's because temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or higher create the perfect conditions under which dangerous bacteria can grow. Canned goods, the USDA goes on to say, are particularly susceptible to the bacteria that produce botulinum toxin, which causes botulism in people, a serious, sometimes fatal, condition. So, unless you're absolutely 100% sure that your canned food froze, didn't thaw, and remains frozen, just toss it.

Eating frozen canned food safely

It is possible to thaw your frozen cans in the fridge and then safely eat the contents. However, the problem with thawing frozen canned food safely is that it can be difficult to gauge whether or not the frozen food did or didn't thaw at some point. What if the can froze overnight, thawed during the day, refroze once temperatures dropped again, and now you're looking for dinner and you think that they remained fully frozen that entire time? The wrong choice could spell a disastrous mistake, as the USDA notes that cans that have thawed and refrozen are definitely not okay.

If you do feel entirely confident that the can did not thaw at any point, though, you can thaw the can in your refrigerator, just like you might any frozen food. However, if you open up the can after the thawing process and notice any odd smell or appearance, or any burst seams or rust, the USDA still cautions that you toss the food immediately, securing the can in a plastic bag inside your normal garbage can, to prevent animals from accessing it.