Canned snails leads to NZ botulism outbreak

COVID-19 sucks. Botulism also sucks. Here’s a quick story with not a lot of details but home canned sea snails in New Zealand led to an outbreak of botulism amongst 4 people in the same house back in May. 

After Sqirl Jam’s #jamgate, this has been a pretty good food safety week for preservation stories.

Back to the sea snails, my guess is they were put into a jar with little or no acidification. Low acid foods like seafood have to be pressure canned to inactivate Clostridium botulinum spores and the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the go-to source doesn’t have anything on snails.

Using the clam or oyster pressure canning processing times isn’t a good idea either – even those similar foods have different processing times due to heat penetration variability. Best to freeze the snails. Not sure about quality, but would avoid the botulism risks.

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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.