Can you eat canned tuna raw?

In this brief guide, we will provide an answer to the question, “Can you eat canned tuna raw?” with an in-depth analysis of the process of making canned tuna, risks associated with eating canned tuna and types of canned tuna.

Can you eat canned tuna raw? 

Yes, you can eat canned tuna raw as it is already cooked during the canning process. 

Tuna is a widely eaten fish. The word tuna includes several fish species, such as yellowfin, skipjack, bigeye and albacore. Among them, skipjack is the most commonly eaten species.

The process of making canned tuna

The fishing process

Both canned tuna and fresh tuna come from the same source. After tuna is caught, it is allowed to be frozen on the fishing boats as early as possible, either with blast freezing or with brine freezing. 

The production process

Once frozen, the tuna is brought back to the port and carried to the plant, where it is kept in freezers until set for production. Afterwards, it is thawed, examined and cleaned. 

At this stage, any tuna that does not meet the quality standards are discarded. The fish that clears the test are then cooked in large steamer containers. The loins are then cleaned, the skin and bones are removed, and the meat is cut into pieces depending on the type being manufactured and stored in a can. This minimal cooking helps to retain most of the nutrients and natural taste of tuna.

In the final step, a liquid is added, either water, vegetable broth, or oil, to the can. No chemical preservatives are used to preserve canned tuna, it is the processing method that actually preserves tuna.

After that, the cans are installed in a cooker allowing them to heat at a high temperature very quickly under pressure. The tuna is then vacuum-sealed and sterilized in cans so that it is shelf-stable and safe to consume. After the sterilization process is finished, the cans are good to go. These cans have a shelf life of up to 4 years.

Risks associated with eating canned tuna

Mercury is a chemical often used in thermometers, when it is released into the environment it becomes a public health issue especially when it settles at the bottom of the oceans.

From there, mercury is absorbed by natural bacteria and converted into methylmercury, which is consumed by the fishes, hence, adding it into the food chain. Instead of dissolving it increases at every level of the food chain.

Giant fish including tuna can have mercury accumulation in their bodies that is 10,000 times higher than the surrounding environment.

Mercury is odour-free and not visible to humans. Once absorbed, however, it can act as a neurotoxin and interfere with the normal activities of the brain and nervous system.

Mercury exposure can be especially harmful to small children and women who are pregnant. In newborns and fetuses, high doses can cause deafness, cognitive difficulties, blindness, and cerebral palsy.

During the development of the child’s brain, it rapidly assimilates nutrients. Mercury can disrupt that consumption, leading to developmental delays and learning disabilities. In adults, mercury consumption can impair fertility and blood pressure control.

Mercury poisoning can also lead to the following symptoms:

  • numbness of extremities
  • memory loss
  • vision loss
  • tremors

Types of canned tuna 

The two common types of canned tuna are white albacore and chunk light.

Chunk light: This type of canned tuna is made mostly from a smaller species of tuna i.e., skipjack tuna. Canned chunk light tuna typically contains about 0.12 parts per million of mercury.

Albacore tuna: this type of canned tuna is made from a larger species and consists of higher levels of mercury i.e., about 0.32 parts per million of mercury. 

Some recommendations to eat canned tuna

It has been recommended that children who weigh less than 55 pounds should not consume light tuna more than one time a month. Even children who weigh over 55 pounds should not eat tuna more than two times per month.

It is recommended by the FDA to avoid eating fresh albacore tuna and tuna steak during pregnancy, unlike canned tuna. It is only safe to consume up to one serving of fewer than 170 grams a week of fresh tuna.

If you want to consume a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, try substituting albacore tuna and any other predatory fish in the diet with sardine, salmon, herring, or anchovy. These contain low levels of mercury, as they are below in the food chain.

If the levels of mercury in the human blood are found to be high, it can take up to 6 months or longer to reduce it to a safe level.

Other FAQs about Tuna that you may be interested in.

Can you eat frozen tuna raw?

Can you eat yellowfin tuna rarely?

How many times a week can you eat tuna?


In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “Can you eat canned tuna raw?” with an in-depth analysis of the process of making canned tuna, risks associated with eating canned tuna and types of canned tuna.