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Home Canning Botulism

Whether you're new to canning or a seasoned pro,
chances are you've heard rumors of
home canned food killing someone.
If you follow the rules when canning, you won't have to worry.

But in case your curious, here's a little primer on home canning botulism,
a rare but potentially deadly condition to be careful of
when doing your own canning at home.

 

What is Botulism?

Botulism is a serious, sometimes fatal food borne illness. The actual bacteria itself is found everywhere and by itself won't make you sick. However, when the conditions are right, the bacteria will grow and produce a toxin. This toxin is deadly. So deadly, in fact, that 1 teaspoon of it is enough to kill 10,000 people.

Another scary thing about botulism is that you can't tell if a jar is infected with it. There are no outward signs to tell you.

The Perfect Growing Conditions

Botulism grows well in moist, low-acid foods that contain little or no oxygen. This makes most home canned vegetables and meat prime target if you don't follow proper canning procedures.

How Common is Botulism from Home Canning?

Botulism cases food borne illness is rare--around 24 cases per year. Of those, the death rate is around 10%. Once someone is poisoned, they must be treated quickly in order to survive.

What are Symptoms of Botulism Poisoning?

Once someone is infected with botulism, there's typically a 12-38 hour window where the symptoms will show up. Sometimes, however, the symptoms can show up as quickly as 6 hours, or not for up to 10 days.

Symptoms to look for include:

dry mouth
blurred vision
slurred speech
vomiting
diarrhea
difficulty swallowing
respiratory failure

How to Prevent Home Canning Botulism

First and foremost, FOLLOW THE RULES! (And know what you can substitute, if anything--here's salsa substitutions and tomato canning substitutions that are safe).

Don't cut corners or shorten processing times.

Don't use a potentially unsafe recipe (even if it was handed down from your great grandma who never got sick once from making it!)

Make sure to follow the recipe closely and keep the acid ratios accurate.

Get your pressure canner checked EVERY YEAR.

Use proper canning equipment.

Test your canned jars to make sure the lid is properly sealed (does it move up and down when you press on the middle?)

When cooking a jar of home canned low-acid food (like vegetables and meat), boil them for 20 minutes before eating them.

The main keys to preventing food poisoning is:

Enough HIGH heat +
the RIGHT acid ratio +
cleanliness +
Following the RULES +
Using a safe recipe =

Safe Home Canned Foods!

***If you suspect your canned food is contaminated with botulism, throw the contents away--somewhere where no people or animals will find it and eat it. Sterilize your empty jars by boiling them for 30 minutes.***


Although botulism shows no signs that it's growing in your food, there are other ways your canned food can spoil. Here's a list of things to look for, when checking for spoilage.

If you'd like to know about about safe canning, or canning processing, or canning recipes, there's more information for you here.

 


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