Catching up on my Reading – How Not To Die From Botulism: What Home Canners Need To Know About The World’s Most Deadly Toxin
I was just reading this article by Erica at Northwest Edible Life. As a small batch canner, one of the things we are most concerned about is botulism. Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by a toxin that affects the nervous system and can cause paralysis. The bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which is found commonly in nature, produces this toxin. There are several types of botulism, including foodborne botulism, which is caused by eating foods that contain the botulinum toxin.
Botulism is a serious illness that should be treated as a medical emergency. Foodborne botulism is caused by eating or drinking food or beverages contaminated with the Clostridium botulinum toxin and the following foods have been associated with botulism:
- improperly prepared home-canned, low-acid foods (for example, corn, green beans, peas, asparagus, beets, mushrooms, spaghetti sauce, salmon);
- improperly stored low acid fruit juices (for example, carrot juice);
- leftover baked potatoes stored in aluminium foil; and
- honey, which has been linked to cases of infantile botulism and should not be fed to infants under one year of age.
Clostridium botulinum bacterium forms spores, which are small, usually single-celled reproductive bodies that are highly resistant to drought and heat and capable of growing into new organisms.
Under conditions with little oxygen (anaerobic), botulinum spores can germinate, resulting in the growth of bacteria and the production of the toxin. Botulism is not transmitted from person to person. Botulism develops if a person ingests the toxin (or rarely, if the toxin is inhaled or injected) or if the organism grows in the intestines or wounds and toxin is released.
Food-borne botulism is spread by consuming food contaminated with the botulism toxin or spores. It can be especially dangerous because many people can be poisoned by consuming contaminated food from the same source.
We follow very strict canning practices when making our products. We scrupulously clean all surfaces and utensils. All fruits and vegetables are carefully washed. All of our canning jars are sterilized before adding the boiling ingredients. We are careful to ensure there is the right amounts of sugar (sugar is a preservative) and or acid to ill the botulism spores. When we publish any of our recipes, we expect you will follow the correct home canning processes. The most comprehensive ones I use are found here.
Click on the image or here for a full-size PDF of this infographic poster.