Sauerkraut blows up in Northern BC school; Hazmat team responds

Doug and I traveled to Prince George (that’s in British Colombia, Canada) in October 2005 for a workshop for local health inspectors and the place creeped me out a bit. The town was like many small Canadian locales I’d been to: a few Tim Hortons outlets and Labatt 50 on tap at the crowded local pubs. The hosts were fantastic as were the Northern BC inspectors we hung out with. That wasn’t the creepy part.

What was creeping me out was the 800km through the bush from pretty well anywhere. I was only there for a couple of days but I felt pretty isolated.
I was also worried about the bears (and this was pre-Colbert Report). 
Bears don’t like sauerkraut so maybe that’s why students in a Prince George school were messing around with a can of it. According to the Vancouver Sun, a canister of sauerkraut exploded causing some botulinum toxin exposure concern:
Two dozen students and four staff were quarantined while a hazardous materials technician and a safety officer investigated the substance.
It turned out to be sauerkraut, which had been fermenting in the can for several years.
When it was determined a botulism outbreak had not occurred, students were returned to their classes but dismissed early from school.
Could have been some incomplete fermentation allowing some gas-forming organisms to mess things up or maybe secondary fermentation.  I’m not really a sauerkraut fan; I prefer fried onions and peppers on my grilled brats if I’m really trying to class them up but if you’re looking for some home-made bear-repelling sauerkraut check out this tested recipe from the folks at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
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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.