2012-08-16 / Community

MDCH urges safe canning

Proper practices used to avoid botulism

LANSING – Summer and fall mark the peak of harvest season for a variety of fruits and vegetables in Michigan. The harvest is followed by the tradition of home canning fruits and vegetables to preserve them for months to come. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Michigan Department of Community Health would like to remind residents that foodborne botulism can be avoided by following safe and proper canning procedures and safe purchasing of canned food items.

“If a canned food displays any signs of botulism, consumers should not eat this food,” said Kevin Besey, MDARD’s Food and Dairy Division director. “Discard cans and jars in a tightly closed plastic bag in a trash can out of the reach of children and pets.”

“Botulism is a paralyzing disease caused by the ingestion of a toxin most commonly formed when food is improperly canned at home,” said Dean Sienko, interim chief medical executive of the MDCH. “Taking the time to learn proper canning procedures and the signs of botulism can reduce an individual’s risk and recognizing the signs of botulism can help people protect themselves and their families.”

Avoid foodborne botulism by following these guidelines recommended by the USDA:

-Low acid foods should be stored for no more than two to five years; high-acid foods for 18 months.

-Store canned foods in a cool, dry place. Never store them above the stove; under the sink; in a damp area such as a basement or garage; or any place exposed to high or low temperature extremes that may affect the integrity of the jar or can.

-Never use food from containers that are leaking, bulging, rusting, badly dented, cracked, spurt liquid upon opening, have loose or bulging lids, or a foul odor.

-Before eating, boil home processed, low-acid foods for 10 minutes to destroy the botulinum toxin with high temperatures.

-Before preparing canned foods, residents should be familiar with the procedures and guidelines outlined in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Complete Guide to Home Canning.

Canned foods are classified in two general categories: high-acid and low-acid foods. Foodborne botulism occurs most commonly in foods with low-acid content such as asparagus, green beans, and corn.

The first symptoms of botulism appear within 12 to 36 hours after eating food containing the neurotoxin and include nausea, vomiting, weakness, and vertigo. Later symptoms include visual impairments; loss of normal throat and mouth functions; general fatigue; lack of muscle coordination; difficulty in breathing; abdominal pain; and diarrhea or constipation. Treatment requires quick medical attention and an antitoxin. If caught quickly, the injection of an antitoxin can lessen the severity of the disease; however the recovery process for botulism patients can be prolonged.

For current recommendations for most methods of home food preservation, factsheets, consumer and technical bulletins, and literature reviews visit The National Center for Home Food Preservation website at www.uga.edu/nchfp/index.html.

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