Home canning is a great way to preserve the bounty of your backyard harvest, but improper technique can cause serious illness and death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has compiled some tips on home canning, the most common source of foodborne botulism.
Tips from the CDC for proper home canning technique include making sure your food preservation information is up-to-date and to always using a pressure canner when canning low-acid vegetables such as green beans, potatoes and corn or, meat, fish and poultry. Click the preceding link for more tips.
Botulism is caused by a nerve toxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum which is found in soil and dust. Symptoms include: double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, muscle weakness, descending paralysis, difficulty breathing and shortness of breath. Death occurs when the muscles that control breathing are paralyzed.
Between 1996 to 2008, 116 foodborne botulism outbreaks reported to CDC. Of those, 18 were caused by improperly home-canned vegetables.
Last year, two people sickened with botulism were hospitalized in Texas. Also in 2015, 21 people who ate at a church potluck in Ohio were sickened and one of them died.