Thursday, July 12, 2012

Three cases of botulism from home preserved foods

There are three confirmed cases of botulism from home preserved foods.  Unfortunately, there is no additional information regarding the circumstances.

With an increasing number of people preserving their own foods, we unfortunately expect that there will be these types of incidents.  It is important that consumers practice 'approved procedures' when canning foods.  Penn State has a dedicated website for support -

In our interactions with consumers, we still find that people are using improper techniques (canning in the oven, not using a pressure cooker for low acid foods, etc).   Where do they get this dangerous information -
- word-of-mouth from a friend - "I know this guy who cans in the oven all the time"
- the memory of what they think their grandmother used to do - "I recall my grandmother never using a pressure cooker to can green beans"
- some misguided blogger on the web

Do not put yourself, your family, or your friends in danger, use proper, approved procedures for preserving food.

County News Release
Deschutes County Oregon -- 7/2/2012 --

The Oregon State Public Health Lab has confirmed that three Central Oregon residents,who were hospitalized, contracted botulism at a private barbeque. Deschutes County Health Services has conducted an investigation and implicated home-canned food as the source of the Botulism. Final testing results are pending. This was an isolated incident and Deschutes County Health Services has notified all involved individuals. Botulism in NOT spread person to person so there is no risk to the general public as a result of these cases.

This is a good reminder of the importance of following strict hygienic procedures to reduce contamination of foods while canning as well as obtaining the necessary pressure when canning to effectively destroy bacteria and prevent botulism. Detailed instructions on safe home canning can be obtained from Oregon State extension services at the following website: Oregon Residents can also call the Food Preservation and Food Safety Hotline at (800) 354-7319 to talk to trained OSU Extension staff.

There are three primary types of botulism:

1. Foodborne botulism is caused by eating foods that contain the botulism toxin and is often associated with home-canned foods that have been improperly processed. Ingesting botulism toxin can lead to illness within a few hours- to days. Foodborne botulism is often caused from home-canned foods with low acid content such as asparagus, green beans, beets and corn.

2. Wound botulism is caused by toxin produced from a wound infected with the bacterium. Wound botulism can be prevented by promptly seeking medical care for infected wounds and by not using contaminated injectable drugs.

3. Infant botulism is caused by consuming the spores of the botulinum bacteria, which then grow in the intestines and release toxin. Honey can contain spores of the botulinum bacteria and has been a source of infection for infants. Children less than 12 months old should not be fed honey. Generally, honey is safe for people one year of age and older.

The classic symptoms of botulism include double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness. These are all symptoms of the muscle paralysis caused by the bacterial toxin. If untreated, these symptoms may progress to cause paralysis of the arms, legs, trunk and breathing muscles. In foodborne botulism, symptoms generally begin 12 to 36 hours after eating a contaminated food, but they can occur as early as six hours or as late as 10 days later.

In the United States an average of 145 cases of botulism are reported each year. Of these, approximately 15 percent are foodborne, 65 percent are infant botulism, and the rest are wound botulism.

Nationally, outbreaks of foodborne botulism involving two or more people occur most years and are usually caused by eating contaminated home-canned foods.

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