The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued tips on the safe and proper way to home canning after the recent outbreak of botulism in Ohio and New Mexico that left one person dead and 20 others seriously ill.
Several cases of people contracting botulism were recorded in Lancaster, Ohio last week after eating potato salad made from home-canned potatoes. The victims attended a pot luck dinner held at the Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church.
One of the 21 victims of the contaminated potato salad, a 54-year-old woman, has died due to complications from the disease. The rest of the patients were treated in various local hospitals using antitoxin from the Strategic National Stockpile given by the CDC.
Two adults from Lea County, New Mexico have been reported to have also contracted botulism.
What is Botulism?
Botulism is defined by the CDC as a rare but serious disease caused by the Clostridium botulinum germ. This microorganism is commonly found in soil, and it thrives even in sealed food jars where it can produce the toxin called botulinum.
If ingested even in small amounts, the botulinum toxin can gravely affect the nerves, which could lead to paralysis and death in extreme cases.
Symptoms of botulism poisoning include drooping eyelids, double vision, blurred vision, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, muscle weakness, and slurred speech.
The CDC's Tips on Safe and Correct Home-Canning
According to the CDC, one in every five American households practice home-canning, and 65 percent of these households prefer to can vegetables. The center, however, warns about the risk of contamination if home-canning is not done properly.
To prevent further outbreaks of botulism, the CDC has released the following tips on how to correctly can food at home:
1. Use proper canning techniques.
People who want to can their own food have to be aware of proper food preservation methods and scientifically tested guidelines. These information are constantly updated which is why the CDC does not advice to always stick to outdated publications or cookbooks.
The CDC recommends visiting The National Center for Home Food Preservation website for up to date home-canning guidelines from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
2. Use the right equipment for the kind of foods that you are canning.
The CDC asserts that pressure canning is the best way to properly can poultry, meat, seafood and vegetables. The pressure used to seal the cans is known to kill the Clostridium botulinum germ during preservation process.
The center discourages people from using boiling water canners because this method will not protect foods from botulism contamination.