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What You Need to Know About Botulism

Botulism toxin is produced by bacteria called Clostridium botulinum.The bacteria and toxin can often be found in home canned foods that have not been properly prepared, unrefrigerated homemade foods such as salsa, garlic and herbs in oil, and traditionally prepared salted or fermented seafood.Very small amounts, even a small taste,can cause severe illness and death.
Illness from botulism toxin can happen within a few hours or up to 10 days after eating food containing Clostridium botulinum.Symptoms of illness can include double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and increasing muscle weakness usually affecting the upper part of the body, but then moves down to the legs. The toxin can paralyze breathing muscles which can cause death. If you have any of these symptoms, especially after eating home-canned food, go to a hospital immediately.

Protect Yourself!

  • Only follow researched and approved recipes that have been published after 1998. Safe recipes can be found at http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html (or http://bit.ly/1bIyqPX). Use a pressure canner or cooker and follow all specified home canning processing times and recipes exactly.
  • Throw away any jars that are damaged, cracked, leaking, swollen, squirts liquid or foam when opened, looks or smells bad.
  • Safely dispose of home-canned food and the container that may be contaminated. Put on gloves before handling containers of food that you think may be contaminated. Place the food or jar in a sealable bag and wrap another plastic bag around the sealable bag. Tape the bags shut tightly and place bags in a trash receptacle for non-recyclable trash outside the home and out of reach of humans and pets. Don’t discard the food in a sink, garbage disposal, toilet, or compost pile. Wash your hands with soap and warm running water for at least 2 minutes after handling food or containers that may be contaminated.
  • Wipe up spills of potentially contaminated food using a bleach solution. Use ¼ cup bleach for each 2 cups of water. Completely cover the spill with the bleach solution, place a layer of paper towels on top of the bleach, and let sit for at least 15 minutes. Wipe up any remaining liquid with new paper towels. Clean the area with liquid soap and water to remove the bleach and discard any items that may have come into contact with the contaminated food or containers. Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 2 minutes.

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