Unveiling the Truth: Tuna Bones – Are They Dangerous?

Are there tuna bones? Are they dangerous?

Tuna, a favorite seafood for many, is known for its delicious taste and versatility in a variety of dishes. However, like other marine fish, tuna contains bones, albeit small ones that are often overlooked. The question is, do these tuna bones pose a threat to our health? In this article, we will explore the presence of tuna bones, their potential dangers, how to recognize and avoid them, and what to do if you accidentally swallow them.

Understanding the tuna production process

To understand why some bones may end up in packaged tuna, it is important to understand the manufacturing process. Tuna’s journey begins in the ocean, where it is caught and stored in temperature-controlled containers. These containers are then transported to the plant for the packaging process.
The first stage of the process is automated, where the tuna is washed and inspected by advanced industrial machinery to ensure quality. This is followed by the descaling station, where workers manually remove the skin from the tuna. At another station, butchers manually cut through the flesh and remove the backbone from the center of the fish. The backbone, which poses the greatest threat, contains thick bones that can puncture the skin. However, workers carefully remove the bone structure with a quick cut, as it usually runs across the fish and is usually found in one piece.
After the larger bones are removed, the meat passes through another station where butchers meticulously scrape the sides of the meat to remove any remaining fish bones. These bones are difficult to remove because they are small and often attached to the meat. It is important to note that removing too many bones can result in wasted meat. Therefore, manufacturers scrape off the surface layer to remove any thick or large bones.
Once the meat is boned and ready, it is sent to a packaging station where it is filled into cans with brine to preserve its quality. The cans are then sealed and prepared for shipment. The smaller bones that may remain in the meat are generally softer and less rigid than larger fish bones. In most cases, if these smaller bones end up in your mouth, they are unlikely to cause any problems and can be eaten without concern.

Recognizing Tuna Bones

Although most tuna bones are safe to eat and often go unnoticed when you bite into the meat, it is natural to want to check for bones. Here is a quick guide to help you identify tuna bones:
Step 1: Remove the fish from the can and spread it out on a clean, white plate.
Step 2: Look closely at the edges of the meat for bones. Since most tuna is pre-cut in the can, you may need to inspect each piece individually.
Step 3: Optionally, use tweezers or your fingers to remove any visible bones from the meat. It is not necessary to remove all bones, however, as the remaining bones are unlikely to pose a threat.

Avoid fish bones

If you want to avoid tuna bones altogether, choose premium or premium-quality tuna. Cheaper brands often cut costs by using less stringent manufacturing processes, which can increase the likelihood of bones in canned tuna. Brands known for their superior processes and quality controls offer tuna that is either boneless or has a significantly reduced chance of containing bones. In addition, premium imported canned tuna, especially from Asia, can offer both great tasting tuna and virtually boneless meat.

Accidentally swallow a bone?

While it is common to accidentally swallow fish bones, most do not cause pain or long-term health effects. Bones usually pass through the digestive system and are eventually eliminated from the body. However, if a bone does get stuck in your throat, here are some steps to follow:

  1. Do not panic: Remaining calm is crucial, as panic can potentially lodge the fishbone deeper. Remember that the fishbone will not affect your breathing and will not cause any harm. Drinking water and swallowing the last sip can help dislodge the bone by stimulating the muscles at the back of your throat.
  2. Try spitting out the bone: Another way to dislodge the bone is to lightly cough, similar to removing phlegm from the throat. This action may help move the fish bone from the back of the mouth to the front, where you can easily pick it out.
  3. Tears and Nicks: Sharp fish bones can cause minor scratches and nicks in the throat. If you cannot see the fish bone in your mouth, it is probably further down the food pipe. In such cases, drinking water or other fluids may help push the bone into the stomach, where it will likely be dissolved and passed in the stool. If irritation or pain persists after 1-2 days, it is advisable to consult a physician.

In conclusion, although tuna does contain small bones, they are usually not a cause for concern. During the manufacturing process, efforts are made to remove the larger bones, and the remaining smaller bones are usually soft and pose little to no threat if accidentally consumed. By following simple steps to identify and remove any visible bones, you can enjoy tuna with confidence. In addition, choosing high-quality brands of tuna can further reduce the likelihood of encountering bones. In the rare event that a bone is accidentally swallowed, staying calm and following the suggested steps can help alleviate any discomfort. Remember that fish bones usually pass through the digestive system without causing long-term health problems.


Are there bones in tuna?

Yes, tuna does contain small bones, but they are often soft and pose minimal risk.

Are tuna bones dangerous to eat?

In general, tuna bones are not dangerous to eat. The smaller bones found in canned tuna are softer and less likely to cause harm.

How do I recognize tuna bones?

To spot tuna bones, spread the fish out on a clean white plate and examine the edges of the flesh carefully. You can also use tweezers or your fingers to remove any visible bones.

Should I be concerned if I accidentally swallow a tuna bone?

Accidentally swallowing a tuna bone is not usually a cause for concern. Most fish bones pass through the digestive system without causing harm. However, if discomfort or irritation persists, it is advisable to consult a physician.

Can premium brands of tuna guarantee boneless meat?

Premium tuna brands often have stricter manufacturing processes and quality controls that reduce the likelihood of bones being present in canned tuna. While they strive to provide boneless meat, it is still advisable to check for bones before consumption.

What should I do if I get a fish bone stuck in my throat?

If a fish bone gets stuck in your throat, stay calm and try to drink water or swallow to dislodge it. You may also try coughing gently to bring the bone to the front of your mouth for easy removal. If irritation or pain persists, seek medical attention.