How long will tuna last in the fridge?

In this guide, we will answer ‘how long will tuna last in the fridge?’ also we will see how you can examine if it’s bad and how to properly store it.

How long will tuna last in the fridge?

According to the Colorado Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence, Rraw tuna may last up to 1 – 2 days in the fridge and 2 – 3 months in the freezer. While canned unopened tuna may last up to 5 years in your pantry and opened canned tuna may last up to 3 – 5 days in the fridge (1). However, scientific studies indicate that nutritional changes and bacterial spoilage occur rapidly after can opening and that the canned tuna should be consumed within 24 h (2). 

How long does canned tuna last in the fridge?

While the company claims that their can will retain its quality for 3 – 5 or more years depending on the brand, their claim might be true. As the fish was canned at its peak quality and both the container and product are practically sterile. Refer to the chart below for further information;

Canned tuna is a cheap, affordable and popular source of protein all around the globe. It mainly uses five species of tuna for the processing of the canned tuna, namely; skipjack, albacore, yellowfin, bigeye and bluefin.

Can conditionPantryFridge
Canned tuna (unopened)Best by + 5 more yearsless than 5 years
Canned tuna (opened)Not more than 2 hours3 – 5 days

However, a study clearly shows that quality characteristics of the canned fish (Organoleptic-taste, texture, rigidity of flesh, appearance, etc) deteriorates after opening the can and subsequent storage under any medium. Also, there is a steady bacterial build up as the length of storage increases. No form of storage, however cold, even at -4°C will halt spoilage due to bacterial multiplication.

The study concluded that canned sardine products should be consumed within 24 hours of exposure and it is better preserved with the oil content of the can (2).

How to tell if your tuna has gone bad?

Following are some tricks and tips to let you know when it’s best to throw your can (1);

  • If there’s something wrong with the can, if it’s damaged, leaking, rusting or dented. It’s best to throw it out. What might have caused it? There might be some flaws in the canning process.
  • If the can explodes while opening or on opening makes a loud popping sound, throw it. It’s due to carbonation within the canned tuna.
  • The tuna gives off an acrid or pronounced spoiled smell, throw it as it’s not safe to consume this.
  • Canned tuna is usually light brown or light pink in colour. Sometimes it also has a reddish hue. Anything darker like brown or black is not safe. Even if you see spots on the can or meat, discard it.
  • If your pre-opened can have passed its 5 days in the fridge, it is best to discard.
  • The best way to judge the quality of anything is to smell and look; sour smell, dull color and slimy texture are not good signs. The best is to avoid consuming it.

When the opened canned tuna is stored for long periods, it can lead to scombroid poisoning. Scombroid poisoning usually results from consumption of fish containing high levels of histamine, which accumulates when bacteria metabolize the amino acid histidine in the fish muscle (3). 

It is a common cause of food poisoning worldwide, caused by ingestion of oily fish contaminated with bacteria that trigger the formation of high concentrations of histamine. Scombroid poisoning manifests mainly as a skin complaint (flushing that spreads downward and/or an erythematous urticarial rash affecting the face and upper trunk). Although the clinical course is usually self-limiting and benign, vascular compromise, bronchospasm, and arrhythmias have been described (4). 

Scombroid poisoning can be prevented by keeping dark-fleshed fish (fresh or in opened cans) refrigerated and by ensuring that fish that has been kept in opened cans for several days is not consumed. The toxins that cause scombroid poisoning are heat stable; thus, cooking of contaminated fish will not reduce the risk of illness (3).

How to store tuna so it lasts longer?

Following are some tips for your ease (1);

  • After purchasing, it’s best to store your cans in a cool, dry environment preferably your pantry. Make sure your can is free from any external force that might cause any damage to your cans.
  • In the warmer season, it’s best to shift your cans to a cooler environment.
  • Always wash your can with water before opening. This makes sure that no external microorganisms will enter and damage your tuna.
  • When the can is opened, store the remaining fish in an airtight box or bag and place this in the fridge.
  • The preservation of the opened canned tuna is better in its own oil.

What are the nutritional and health benefits of tuna?

Like all kinds of seafood, tuna is a good source of protein, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D and selenium.

Proteins are considered as a building block for all tissues in the body. Peptides, which are resulted from the hydrolysis of proteins, have been reported to show a wide range of biological activity, including antimicrobial, anti-oxidative and antihypertensive activities (5).

Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids as the body can’t synthesize them on its own. These fatty acids are important for a healthy brain. It also reduces inflammation and helps to improve cardiovascular functioning. Fish oil also exerts  their protective effect against heart diseases by decreasing serum triglyceride levels, improving heart function and lowering blood pressure. They lower the level of platelet assemblage in the blood, thereby thinning the blood and decreasing the tendency of formation of blood clots (5).

Vitamin D helps maintain levels of phosphorus and calcium and contributes to maintaining healthy bones. Also prevents the occurrence of osteoporosis and osteomalacia that weakens your skeletal and compromises your bone health. FIsh are a good source of vitamin A, B1 and E (5).

While selenium is present in very small amounts that regulates your thyroid and hormonal functions also protects the body from harmful oxidative processes.

Does canned tuna contain mercury?

Canned tuna often is found to have traces of mercury in it. This is because as the species moves up the food chain the levels of mercury increase. This is because tuna is a large predator and consumes smaller fish that contain mercury in them. Over time the concentration of mercury increases in tuna. All fish contain mercury, but the levels in each fish vary with species, size, and age. Older and larger fish tend to contain more mercury. Older fish have had more years to internally accumulate a significant amount of mercury due to their environments; this is referred to as bioaccumulation (1).

For a deeper insight please visit here.

Other FAQs about Tuna that you may be interested in.

How many times a week can you eat tuna?

What is the difference between albacore and yellowfin tuna?

How much tuna is safe for cats?

Conclusion

In this guide, we answered ‘how long will tuna last in the fridge?’ Also, we have discussed how you can examine if it’s bad and how to properly store it.

Hope you found this helpful. Any comment and question will be really appreciated.

Citation

  1. Canned Tuna. Colorado Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence. 2022.
  2. Oyelese, O. A., and M. O. Opatokun. Exposure time on bacteria flora/count and shelf life of canned sardine (Sardinella pilchardus) under ambient and cold storage conditions. J food process preserv, 2007, 31, 517-530.
  3. Predy, Gerry, et al. Was it something she ate? Case report and discussion of scombroid poisoning. CMAJ, 2003, 168, 587-588.  
  4. de Cerio, O. Guergué-Díaz, A. Barrutia-Borque, and J. Gardeazabal-García. Scombroid poisoning: a practical approach. Actas Dermo-Sifiliogr, 2016, 107, 567-571.
  5. Kundam, Dorcas Nguemo, Israel Okpunyi Acham, and Abraham Tartenger Girgih. Bioactive compounds in fish and their health benefits. Asian Food Sci. J, 2018, 1-14.