A man is suspected of dying from botulisum poisoning after eating food canned at home. This tragic incident is a reminder to always follow safety precautions when processing home-canned foods.
It can be hard to tell if home-canned food is contaminated with botulism because it may not have a bad taste, smell, or appearance. Botulism is caused by a toxin that is a by-product of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. Botulinum spores are found in soil, seawater and many other places in the environment.
Can survive high cooking temperatures.
Grows in low oxygen environments like canned or vacuum packaged foods.
Tends to grow slowly over weeks or months if the food is not processed safely.
May not cause food to look, taste or smell spoiled.
How to prevent botulism:
Learn how to safely process food. Washington State University Cooperative Extension provides recipes and resources for canning and pickling. See WSU Extension | Washington State University for more information.
Make sure your canning equipment is functioning properly. Be sure canner seals are in good condition. Make sure your pressure gauge is accurate. Use new lids with intact seals.
Inspect each jar of canned food for signs of seal failure immediately after processing and before consuming the food. Discard items if the seals appear to be failing – look for:
Discolored or spoiled contents
If in doubt, throw it out - It is always better to be safe than sick!
Contact the Whatcom County Health Department with food safety questions at 360-778-6000 or e-mail [email protected].
Learn more at https://www.cdc.gov/botulism/.