Battle of the Bulge

Canning fans, beware!  This is the season for fresh fruits and vegetables and, if you plan to do some canning, please be cautious.  Even though botulism is rare, it is something to keep in mind when canning.
The Indiana Poison Center wants to give you a few tips about Botulism.

Botulism spores are found naturally in the environment.  It is only after the botulinum spores germinate and grow that the actual poison is produced.  This occurs in an environment that is anaerobic, or without oxygen.  Although boiling can destroy most of the poison, pressure-cooking to 240 degrees F is needed to destroy the spores.  That is why proper canning technique is so important. 

Approximately two thirds of people who contract botulism die and, for those who survive, recovery is slow.  Symptoms may include double vision, drooping eyelids, dilated pupils, dry mouth, and difficulty swallowing.  Constipation, nausea and vomiting, urinary retention and dizziness may also be seen.  Another symptom could be descending paralysis.  The time frame for the symptoms to develop may be as early as 3 hours after ingestion, although symptoms generally are seen 12 hours to several days post ingestion.

Below are some thing to keep in mind when canning:

  • Undercooking is the main culprit in home canning.
  • Foods high in acid, such as fruit juices, jams, jellies, sauerkraut and most tomato products can be canned by boiling.
  • Meats and poultry should be canned in pressure cookers at the proper heat level and length of time.
  • Green beans, corn, beets and peppers have a higher incidence of contamination, so be especially careful with these food items!
  • Botulism spores produce gas when they grow, which destroys the vacuum seal.
  • Signs of botulism-contaminated foods may include swelling, bulging cans, off color, or unusual odor.
  • If you suspect botulism, DO NOT TASTE ANY OF THE PRODUCT, for even a very small portion may result in illness.

To learn more about poison prevention and to receive a free magnet and phone stickers call the Indiana Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222, or visit the Center’s website at For a poisoning emergency, call the Poison Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222 where experts are standing by twenty-four hours a day to help you.

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