New food safety infosheet — 3 in Spokane sickened by botulism linked to home canned beans

Canning season is just about to start. I’ve never really done any home food preservation before. Growing up all I was really exposed to, canning-wise, was pickles, freezer jam and frozen peaches. All of which I loved to eat, but I always found ways to occupy myself while my mom and grandmother were making them for fear of having to help. My dad and grandfather usually golfed while this was all going down.

Golfing is sort of out of the question now that I have a nine-month-old crawling around the house, so I’m taking up canning. I’m heading out to Walmart this week to grab the Ball Home Canning Basics kit and start experimenting.

Maybe experimenting might now be the right word. I don’t really want to experiment too much when the consequences can be so drastic. This week’s food safety infosheet focuses on an outbreak from earlier this year in Spokane, WA. Reportedly a 30-year-old Washington State nurse and her two children became ill with botulism reportedly acquired from canned green beans. The nurse’s illness was so severe that she required a ventilator to breath for months.

Though reliable data is often hard to access, other recent outbreaks linked to the potentially complicated processes of home preservation have contributed to the national burden of foodborne illness. Illnesses have been linked to home preservation in numerous states. As recent as September 2008, an Ohio man and his grandson were hospitalized as a result of botulism toxin poisoning caused by improperly canned green beans. In 2007 a Virginia couple died after consuming improperly canned foods that also contained botulism toxin.  There have been at least seven other outbreaks of botulism linked to home preservation practices across the U.S. since 1995. Improperly processed home-dried jerky products have also recently been linked to Salmonella and pathogenic E. coli outbreaks.

You can download this week’s food safety infosheet here.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.