One ritual of spring is planting a garden. And for many home gardeners, this includes plans for preserving and canning the year’s bounteous produce.
Karen Blakeslee is the coordinator of Kansas State University’s Rapid Response Center (http://www.rrc.ksu.edu/), a resource about food safety issues for consumers. She said a recent outbreak of botulism at a potluck in Lancaster, Ohio is a good reminder that all vegetables, meats and poultry need to be pressured cooked. A woman died and 21 others were confirmed as having botulism from eating potato salad containing home-canned potatoes at that potluck.
“Pressure cook all vegetables including green beans, corn and potatoes, anything that isn’t pickled,” Blakeslee, a food safety expert with K-State Research and Extension, advised.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (http://www.cdc.gov/features/homecanning/), food not canned correctly or safely can be risky or even deadly. Botulism is a rare illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Foodborne botulism is caused by eating foods that contain the botulinum toxin (http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/botulism/).
Blakeslee advised home canners to use up-to-date canning recipes and equipment. She said any information prior to 1994 should not be used.
“The USDA continues to update information and has updated a lot of recommendations in the last 20 years,” she said.
“When you do things rights you shouldn’t have a food safety problem,” she said. Blakeslee also advised against making up home canning recipes or using untested recipes found online, including popular sites like Pinterest.
She referred home canners to USDA recommendations or extension publications as reputable sources of information. The K-State Research and Extension Bookstore has several fact sheets, including “10 Tips for Safe Home-Canned Food” MF3170, available online through www.ksre.ksu.edu/bookstore. Or go to the Rapid Response Center’s website (www.RRC.ksu.edu) for more information.
In addition, home canners with a dial gauge pressure canner should have it tested every year. “Most extension offices offer pressure canner testing every year, so contact your local extension office for details,” Blakeslee said.