Does this look familiar? Click on the comment link in any posting and leave us some feedback- we'd love to hear from you!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Food Safety

I was looking up info about botulism, because I remember reading about it in the Carla Emery book. I had a jar of peppers that I processed correctly, but after they were sealed, the liquid level went down because the brine settled into the peppers, so I had about 1 1/2 inches of headspace and it worried me a little. What I found out was a lot more than I ever would have guessed. Botulism can occur even in foods that are not canned. Thought I would share what I found (BTW, I baked the peppers at 350* for about 40 minutes, so they should be fine since it says to boil canned foods for 10 minutes, and boiling is a lower temp than the baking).

" There are three main kinds of botulism:

-Foodborne botulism is caused by eating foods that contain the botulinum toxin.

-Infant botulism is caused by consuming the spores of the botulinum bacteria, which then grow in the intestines and release toxin.

-Wound botulism is caused by toxin produced from a wound infected with Clostridium botulinum. This is the rarest type of botulism.


While commercially canned goods are required to undergo a "botulinum cook" at 121°C (250 °F) for 3 minutes and so rarely cause botulism, there have been notable exceptions such as the 1978 Alaskan salmon outbreak and the 2007 Castleberry's Food Co. outbreak. Foodborne botulism has more frequently been from home-canned foods with low acid content, such as carrot juice, asparagus, green beans, beets, and corn. However, outbreaks of botulism have resulted from more unusual sources. In July, 2002, fourteen Alaskans ate muktuk (whale meat) from a beached whale, and eight of them developed symptoms of botulism, two of them requiring mechanical ventilation [1].

Other sources of infection include

-garlic or herbs stored covered in oil, (ACK! no more eating the oil on the table of my favorite Italian place)

-chile peppers (guess I'll have to cook all peppers from now on)

-improperly handled baked potatoes wrapped in aluminium foil (I have read the stuff about aluminum causing Alzheimers, so I think we'll just stop using it all the way around)

-home-canned or fermented fish. (not a problem, but I'll keep it in mind!)

Persons who do home canning should follow strict hygienic procedures to reduce contamination of foods. Oils infused with garlic or herbs should be refrigerated. Potatoes which have been baked while wrapped in aluminum foil should be kept hot until served or refrigerated [8]. Because the botulism toxin is destroyed by high temperatures, home-canned foods are best boiled for 10 minutes before eating. Metal cans containing food in which bacteria, possibly botulinum, are growing may bulge outwards due to gas production from bacterial growth; such cans should be thrown away. Any container of food which has been heat-treated and then assumed to be airtight which shows signs of not being so (e.g., metal cans with pinprick holes from rust or mechanical damage) should also be discarded.

Wound botulism can be prevented by promptly seeking medical care for infected wounds, and by avoiding punctures by unsterile things such as needles used for street drug injections. It is currently being researched at USAMIRIID under BSL-4.

To help prevent infant botuilism, refrain from giving any child under the age of 12 months of age honey, corn syrup, and other sweeteners. This is partly because the digestive juices of an infant are less acidic than older children and adults, and may be less likely to destroy ingested spores. In addition, young infants do not yet have sufficient numbers of resident microbiota in their intestines to competitively exclude C. botulinum. Nevertheless, the majority of infants with botulism have no history of ingestion of honey, and the exact source of the offending spores is unclear about 85% of the time. Spores present in the soil are a leading candidate for most cases, and often a history of construction near the home of an affected infant may be obtained." wikipedia



a soldier's wife said...

garlic or herbs stored covered in oil,

oh no! That's one of my favorites at Italian restaurants too.

This was a very informative article and I am going to print it out and put in my cook book for future reference. Thanks so much for posting it

Phyllis Entis said...

Good article! You'll find a bit more information on infant botulism at my blog: