Can you eat spoiled Tuna?

In this brief article, we will answer the question “can you eat spoiled tuna?”. In addition, we will discuss the health consequences of eating spoiled tuna, how to determine if your tuna is spoiled and how long is canned tuna good for.

Can you eat spoiled Tuna?

No, you should never eat spoiled tuna due to the potential risk of foodborne illnesses, particularly scombroid food poisoning (1-6). 

Tuna naturally contains high levels of histidine, which can be converted into histamine by bacteria when the fish is not properly stored (1-2, 5). This process results in a significant increase in the nitrogenous content and the production of histamine, which can have adverse effects on the immune system. 

Even after cooking or freezing, the histamine in spoiled fish remains, making it unsafe to eat. It is essential to discard spoiled tuna to avoid potential health risks.

To prevent tuna from spoiling, the best approach is to refrigerate or freeze the fish as soon as possible after it is caught. This inhibits the growth of bacteria and helps preserve the fish for an extended period (1). 

By following proper storage practices, the freshness and quality of the tuna can be maintained, reducing the risk of spoilage and associated health hazards.

In addition, when consuming canned tuna, it is crucial to take certain precautions. Always check the best before date indicated on the can and consume the tuna within that specified date. 

Additionally, inspect the can for any signs of leakage. If a leaking point is found, it is advisable not to consume the tuna, as harmful bacteria may have already contaminated and spoiled the fish inside (3-5).

Can you get sick from eating spoiled tuna?

Yes, eating spoiled tuna can result in various foodborne illnesses, and the symptoms can range from mild to severe (1-6). 

Spoiled tuna can harbor harmful bacteria and toxins that can cause foodborne illnesses and food poisoning such as Salmonella and Vibrio (4). These bacteria can lead to symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and potentially more severe complications in vulnerable individuals (7).

It’s important to note that even a small amount of spoiled tuna can make you sick, and the severity of the illness can vary depending on the specific bacteria or toxins present in the fish.

To protect your health, it is crucial to never consume spoiled tuna and instead opt for fresh and properly stored fish from reputable sources. 

It is also strongly advised to properly store and handle fresh tuna by adhering to proper food safety practices (8), thus preventing spoilage and minimizing the risk of foodborne illnesses.

How to check if Tuna is spoiled?

To determine if tuna is spoiled, one effective method is to rely on your sense of smell. A foul odor emanating from the fish indicates spoilage. The increased nitrogenous content in spoiled tuna contributes to this unpleasant smell. 

Additionally, visual cues can help identify spoiled tuna. Keep an eye out for any significant changes in color, such as a shift to brown, black, or green tones. Ideally, tuna should display a vibrant red or pink color, indicating its freshness.

Despite taking precautions, there may be instances when you still encounter something off about the tuna even after the initial inspection. In such cases, it is crucial to trust your instincts and prioritize your well-being. 

If you detect any unusual taste, texture, or lingering doubts about the tuna’s freshness, it is advisable to discard it and refrain from consuming it. Remember that your health comes first!

What should you do if you suspect you have eaten spoiled tuna?

If you eat spoiled tuna, you may experience symptoms of food poisoning relatively quickly, typically within 20 to 40 minutes after ingestion. These symptoms include nausea, headache, dizziness, facial flushing, and a rapid heartbeat (9). 

If you experience any of these symptoms after consuming tuna, it is advisable to seek medical attention and consult a doctor immediately. A healthcare professional will be able to assess your condition and provide appropriate treatment. 

Antihistamines are commonly prescribed to alleviate symptoms caused by histamine poisoning from spoiled fish (10). In severe cases, the doctor may prescribe epinephrine and steroids to manage more pronounced symptoms. 

It is important to note that most patients recover from scombroid poisoning within 3 to 4 days with proper medical care. In rare and severe cases, individuals may encounter additional complications such as blurred vision or swelling of the tongue (11). 

While the majority of cases of food poisoning from spoiled tuna are not life-threatening, it is always better to consult a doctor if any concerning symptoms arise. 

Remember that prompt medical intervention can help alleviate discomfort, manage complications, and ensure a speedy recovery.

How long is tuna good for?

Fresh tuna should be consumed within 1-2 hours after fishing. If you have not stored the tuna fish properly then its quality might deteriorate and get spoiled.

Canned tuna is most likely to stay good on the shelf for about 3-5 years. Whereas when canned tuna opens, it should be consumed within 1-2 days or else it starts to spoil. 


In this brief article, we answered the question “can you eat spoiled tuna?”. In addition, we discussed the health consequences of eating spoiled tuna, how to determine if your tuna is spoiled and how long is canned tuna good for.


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