March 2009

Alabama’s Tuscaloosa Farmers Market is again selling home-made jams and jellies, but NOT certain canned goods due to fear of botulism.

The Alabama Department of Public Health last summer banned the sales of any good prepared in home kitchens at the popular farmers market. Now health officials have issued a new regulation allowing foods like baked goods to be sold, but not the more potentially hazardous like canned beans and the like.

According to the Tuscaloosa News:

The Alabama Farmers Market Authority and the Alabama Department of Public Health worked together to create the amendment to the state’s food establishment sanitation regulations.

Under the amendment, food prepared for sale at farmers markets or at charitable, religious, civic or not-for-profit events is permissible as long as it’s not potentially hazardous and a label or visible sign indicates that it was prepared at a location not inspected by the health department.

These include items such as baked breads, rolls, cookies, cakes, brownies, fudge, double-crust fruit pies, fruit jams, jellies, marmalades and relishes, candy, spices or herbs and snack items such as popcorn, caramel corn and peanut brittle.

Prohibited are low-acid foods, such as green beans or tomato-based products, sold in hermetically sealed containers that can lead to deadly botulism if they’re not prepared at a high enough temperature or with a strong enough seal.

Health Canada is again warning consumers about garlic-in-oil, which can cause serious health problems if not stored properly.

If homemade garlic-in-oil is stored at room temperature, or if it is kept in the fridge too long, botulism spores could grow.

Garlic-in-oil is a mixture of oil and garlic with the garlic either whole, chopped, or minced. If it is refrigerated on a continuous basis and used within a week it is safe.

Clostridium botulinum are widespread and are usually not a problem because they cannot grow if exposed to oxygen according to Health Canada.

The problem occurs when there is no oxygen present, like with the oil.

There may be no obvious signs that garlic-in-oil is spoiled. It will still look, smell and taste the same.

If you eat garlic-in-oil that is infected with the toxins you can get botulism which is potentially fatal.

Symptoms include dizziness, blurred or double vision, difficulty in swallowing, breathing and speaking and paralysis that gets worse with time.

For more on the warning, go here.

 We warned you here  at the start of the home canning season, but we suspect not everybody reads the Botulism Blog are carefully as they might.   For a Spokane, WA nurse, in her 30s, and her two children under 10, it almost ended in tragedy.  Only an emergency delivery by air of the anti-toxin from the Homeland Security storage facility in Seattle has put hope back in this story.

The Spokane woman and her two young children were sickened by botulism from improperly canned green beans from a home garden.  The woman remains on a ventilator and is recovering slowly. The children suffered milder symptoms.

The Spokesman Review newspaper said Epidemiologist Dorothy MacEachern with the Spokane Regional Health District is concerned that people have been responding to difficult economic times by canning more of their food perhaps improperly.

Food safety experts say special precautions must be taken when canning low-acid foods such as green beans and asparagus.

For more, go here.