Canned potatoes used in potato salad likely culprit in botulism outbreak

Home canning is not something to mess around with. Low acid foods need to be processed using a pressure canner to inactivate Clostridium botulinum spores – boiling water baths (like what is used for pickles and jams) won’t do it.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, home-canned potatoes used in potato salad are the likely vehicle that caused over 20 illnesses and a death last week in Ohio.

State health officials say this afternoon that potato salad made with home-canned potatoes is the likely source of a deadly botulism outbreak at a Lancaster church potluck.cannedpotatoes2009

Last week, the Ohio Department of Health said tests showed that six food samples taken from the April 19th potluck had tested positive for botulism.

Sietske de Fijter, chief of the Bureau of Infectious Diseases for the state, said health officials were able to narrow the likely food culprits by interviewing nearly everyone who became ill – as well as those who didn’t – at the potluck.

Case-control study is the next step to confirm.

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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.