Food Safety Issues/can openers


QUESTION: After opening a can with a manual can opener, if I run a lightly moistened paper towel around the edge I will see gray specks and smears on the paper towel, which I assume are metal shavings.
Unfortunately tonight I stirred the contents of a can and dumped it into the food before I checked the edge (because I thought I had this problem solved with a new can opener after trying 3 different ones). Checked the next can and was horrified.
My husband insisted it was fine so we ate the dinner, but I am concerned. Have you heard of this before? How dangerous is it? Is there a type of can opener that won't cause this? Thank you if you can help!

ANSWER: Great question. I routinely clean my can opener and find the same thing. I don't think it is dangerous as there aren't reports of metal contamination from this occurring. I really wouldn't worry about it. I've found this problem with every can opener, manual and electric I have owned. Again, i wouldn't worry too much about it but I would keep cleaning the can opener.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: So--your answer was totally clear but just because I have spent sleepless nights over this--please may I just say back to you what I will take from this---you aren't worried, and you haven't heard reported concern about people ingesting a little metal from can openers leaving metal dust on the inner rim of food cans---right?
My main fear was that the metal could damage the body if some of the pieces were sharp. In trying to find a can opener that didn't cause this, unfortunately I have to say some of them left metal from the very start--brand new and clean--some larger pieces than others. It was kind of scary.
I am trying to remember that I have managed to survive many years before I ever noticed this problem. Also, I certainly trust that with your years of experience in the food industry, that if it was a big concern you would have heard so, and somebody would have solved it!  Thank you so much for this service. Reading your answers to everybody and your answers to me have helped me understand this whole food safety business better.

I understand your concerns regarding metal shavings and metal dust left on can openers. Again, the lack of reported concerns or issues it what we need to focus on. I did speak to my own doctor about this and he said any metal that was ingested would pass harmlessly through our digestive track. Even metal dust would not be absorbed in the intestines being too large (even dust) to pass through the intestines into the blood stream. I deal with a lot of what ifs in my business and I always look for reported problems associated with scenarios. There are a lot of things we think are risky that are not borne out by reported illness. I guess we just have to live with the concern are realize history shows us it's not an issue. thanks

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Carl LaFrate


I can answer food safety questions relative to food processing, retail food and food salvage after a catastrophic event such as a hurricane, flood, ammonia leak or fire. Questions related to HACCP, Regulatory, GFSI, SQF, BRC, liability issues, contamination events, pest infestation, pest control methodology,food safety defense, pathogen prevention such as L. Monocytogenes control in food processing and retail, any subject related to food safety including at home issues.


30 years experience as a food safety consultant working for the top food processors, food retailers and insurance companies that write liability policies related to food processing, storage and distribution. My firm employees 6 full time food safety auditors. I work for top law firms throughout the USA and am a staff consultant for Douglas Peterson and Associates, one of the top forensic engineering firms in the world. I also work with Risk Solutions International, a global leader in risk management.

New York State Association for Food Protection, past president, executive board Central Atlantic States Association of Food and Drug Officials

Progressive Grocer Magazine Smart Money Magazine Private Label Buyer Magazine Supermarket News Natural Foods Merchandiser Magazine Food Service Director Magazine NYS Association for Food Protection Annual Report NYS Association for Food Protection Newsletter

Syracuse University, Microbiology/Biology NYS College of Environmental Sciences, Plant and Environmental Biology Cornell University, Food and Dairy Processing

Awards and Honors
Wm. Hickey Award (2006), NYS Association for Food Protection, for contributions in the field of food safety and sanitation New York State Integrated Pest Management Award (2007), NYS Assoc. for Food Protection, for contributions in the filed of integrated pest management.

Past/Present Clients
Pillsbury, Agri-Mark, Associated Grocers, Beatrice Foods, Cargill, Southern Cold Storage, Quaker, Ben & Jerry’s, Delverde Pasta (Italy), New York Bakery, Cabot Cheese, Hazelwood Farms, General Mills, Price Chopper Supermarkets, P&C Supermarkets, Great American Supermarkets, Tops Markets, Big M Supermarkets, Big Bear Supermarkets, Frito-Lay Distribution Centers, IBP, Excell, Eckerd Drugs, Rite Aid Drug Stores, Fay’s Drugs, Carl’s Drugs, AWI Wholesale Food Distribution, McLane Food Distributors, Golub Food Distribution, many supermarket chains (many include large scale specialty food service operations), Burger King, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Darden Foods (Red Lobster, Olive Garden), LSG Skychefs (Germany, US), Glen Mills Schools, Cornell University, Crider Poultry, Caesar’s Palace, The Oneida Indian Nation, Taylor Meat Packing, UCB Packaging Films

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