Canning Safety

As farmers’ markets fill up with bounties from local fields, and backyard gardens produce more beans and tomatoes than can be eaten, experienced canners and those considering canning are getting out their jars and pressure canners. Canning is a great way to preserve food, but if done incorrectly can lead to serious consequences. In 2009, there were three botulism outbreaks in the United States (events with two or more cases). The three outbreaks were caused by home-canned green beans (associated with three cases in Washington), home-canned asparagus (three cases in Washington and Minnesota), and home-canned tuna (two cases in CA). Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is most commonly produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. The classic symptoms of botulism include double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness. If untreated, these symptoms may progress to cause paralysis of the respiratory muscles, arms, legs, and trunk. A USDA Guide on Canning is available at www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/publications_usda.html.

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