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Be Aware Of The risks With Botulism When Canning

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Canning is more popular now than every before in modern day living… So What Should I know?

When canning at home the risk of botulism is something we all need to be aware of.  So many people are canning at home now that this is an issue that just needs a little thought as you go about your canning day.  Now 1 in 5 households are reported to can according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  However keep in mind that botulism is a very rare illness with only an average of 145 cases per year reported in the U.S., according to the CDC.

It’s caused by a germ found in soil called Clostridium botulinum, and the danger lies in the fact that the germ can multiply and produce toxins in food that has not been properly canned.

In fact, between 1996 and 2008, 38 percent of food-borne botulism outbreaks reported to the CDC were the result of home-canned vegetables.

Telltale symptoms of botulism include double vision or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth and muscle weakness.

Stephanie Barton, program manager at the Sharp Rees-Stealy Center for Health Management and a registered dietitian says its more likely that the illness will come from canning low-acid foods.  These foods are foods like corn, starchy vegetables, or green beans.  High acid foods have less of an environment in which to live.

Barton said those who contract botulism often do so 12 to 36 hours after ingesting the toxin. She said those suffering from the illness should seek medical care, and symptoms can last anywhere from a few hours to several days.

However, the risk can be eliminated by using a pressure canner, which resembles a crock pot with attachments, Barton said. The device heats the food to 240 degrees, hot enough to destroy botulism, and then pressure seals the jars used for canning.

On the other hand, boiling water canners heat to 212 degrees, which is the temperature of boiling water. “Pressure canning is hot enough to kill potential botulism,” Barton said. “You’ll never get that kind of heat if you do it on your own.”

However, she said, a pressure canner is not needed for canning high-acid foods. She said the USDA “Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving” also offers advice for those who can at home.

Check the openings on the jars for cleanliness. Make sure there’s no dust or dirt, especially if it’s a jar that’s being reused. Check the rubber gasket on the metal lid to make sure it’s not cracked or sticky. When canning, make sure the jar is sealed 100 percent and nothing is in the way of the seal. Once canning is complete, store the food in a cool, dry environment. If canned and stored properly, the food should last for a year. Throw away any canned food that’s been stored 12 months or more.

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