Question: I have some canned tuna in my pantry. The “best by” date was several months ago. Is it still safe to eat?
Answer: Yes, the tuna should be fine — provided you’ve been storing it properly and the unopened can isn’t damaged.
As the U.S. Department of Agriculture points out, “Best By,” “Best if Used By,” and “Use By” dates on commercially packaged foods sold in the United States are not food safety dates. Provided voluntarily by manufacturers, they are an indication of how long products are likely to remain at peak quality.
After the “best by” date has passed, the canned tuna’s texture, color and flavor will gradually deteriorate. So from a sheer quality standpoint, the sooner you eat the tuna, the better.
But from a safety perspective, you can consume it well beyond the “best by” date — in fact, unopened shelf-stable commercially canned foods will keep safe indefinitely (assuming they remain properly stored and undamaged), according to the USDA.
Just be sure to store your tuna and other shelf-stable canned goods in a cool, dry area and check to see that unopened cans are not leaking, rusting, bulging or severely dented. You should always throw out damaged cans, without tasting the food first.