Protect yourself from Botulism

The Center for Disease Control explains Botulism

Botulinum toxin is produced by the germ Clostridium botulinum. This toxin can affect your nerves, paralyze you, and even cause death. Food borne botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by eating foods that are contaminated with a nerve toxin called botulinum toxin. Even taking a small taste of food containing this toxin can be deadly. Most US outbreaks of food borne botulism are caused by home-processed and home-canned foods. Home-canned vegetables are the most common cause of food borne botulism outbreaks in the United States.

Protect yourself from botulism: When in doubt, throw it out!

  • Any food that may be contaminated with botulinum toxin should be thrown out. See Safely dispose of food and cans that may be contaminated below.
  • Never taste the product to determine if it is safe. Do not taste or eat foods from containers that are leaking, have bulges or are swollen, look damaged or cracked, or seem abnormal in appearance.
  • When you open a jar of commercially or home-canned food, thoroughly inspect the product. Do not taste or eat foods that are discolored, moldy, or smell bad. Do not use products that spurt liquid or foam when the container is opened.

Inspect your commercial and home-canned foods

  • Don’t open or puncture any unopened cans, commercial or home-canned, if you suspect contamination.
  • Suspect contamination if
    • The container is leaking, bulging or swollen, looks damaged or cracked or seems abnormal in appearance
    • The container spurts liquid or foam when opened
    • The food is discolored, moldy, or smells bad

Safely dispose of food and cans that may be contaminated

  • Put on rubber or latex gloves before handling open containers of food that you think may be contaminated.
  • Avoid splashing the contaminated food on your skin.
  • Place the food or can in a sealable bag.
  • Wrap another plastic bag around the sealable bag.
  • Tape the bags shut tightly.
  • Place bags in a trash receptacle for non-recyclable trash outside the home and out of reach of humans and pets.
  • Don’t discard the food in a sink, garbage disposal, or toilet.
  • Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 2 minutes after handling food or containers that may be contaminated.

Wipe up spills of potentially contaminated food using a bleach solution

  • Add ¼ cup bleach for each 2 cups of water.
  • Completely cover the spill with the bleach solution.
  • Place a layer of paper towels, 5 to 10 towels thick, on top of the bleach.
  • Let the towels sit for at least 15 minutes.
  • Wipe up any remaining liquid with new paper towels.
  • Clean the area with liquid soap and water to remove the bleach.
  • Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 2 minutes.
  • Discard sponges, cloths, rags, paper towels, and gloves that may have come into contact with contaminated food or containers with the food.


Home Canning

Know the risks of botulism from home-canned foods

Home-canned vegetables are the most common cause of botulism outbreaks in the United States. From 1996 to 2008, there were 116 outbreaks of food borne botulism reported to CDC. Of the 48 outbreaks that were caused by home-prepared foods, 18 outbreaks, or 38%, were from home-canned vegetables. These outbreaks often occur because home canners did not follow canning instructions, did not use pressure cookers, ignored signs of food spoilage, and were unaware of the risk of botulism from improperly preserving vegetables. For more information, see Home Canning: Protect Yourself from Botulism.

Use proper canning techniques

  • The best way to prevent foodborne botulism is by carefully following instructions for safe home canning.
  • Use a pressure canner or cooker and follow all specified home canning processing times for safe home canning of all foods.
    • Pay special attention to the processing times for low-acid vegetables like green beans, carrots, and corn.
  • Discard all swollen, gassy, or spoiled canned foods. (See Safely dispose of food and cans that are contaminated)
  • Boil home-processed, low-acid canned foods for 10 minutes before serving.
    • For higher altitudes, add 1 minute for each 1,000 feet of elevation.

Consult the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning

Image: USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning Cover
  • People who can foods in their own home should follow strict hygienic procedures and follow USDA recommended canning guidelines to reduce the risk of contaminating foods.
  • All home-canned foods should be canned following the USDA canning guidelines, particularly low acid and tomato foods.
  • Low-acid and tomato foods not canned according to the recommendations in this publication or according to other USDA-endorsed recommendations are at risk of being contaminated with botulism.
    • Consider boiling home-canned foods for 10 minutes before eating them because the botulism toxin is destroyed by high temperatures.
      • However, foods known to be under processed according to the current standards and recommended methods should not be eaten and should be disposed of safely.

SFPLA Thanks the Center for Disease Control for this article. 


Water Kimchi Class with Chef Hae Jung Cho

Santa Monica: March 28, 2016 7:00 PM

Chef, kimchi master and Certified Slow Food Preservation Advisor Hae Jung Cho will teach you how to make WATER KIMCHI, which is traditional, seasonal, vegan and can be eaten as either as a broth starter or you can add noodles to make it a complete meal.  She will show you all the steps and you’ll make your own jar. Class will end with a tasting of wat
er kimchi with noodles at the end of class.
TICKETS are available at:


There will also be a drawing for additional gifts and prizes, including a gift basket with two bottles of MARTIAN, a book, a coupon for free jars and a three-pack of Food Forward jams already packaged in a lovely gift box.   

This promises to be an exceptional event!    Reserve your spot today!

Recommended Reading: So Easy to Preserve

“So Easy to Preserve”

The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is pleased to offer the 6th edition of its popular book, So Easy To Preserve. This beautiful book contains the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture recommendations for safe food preservation. So Easy To Preserve is now a 375-page book with over 185 tested recipes, along with step by step instructions and in-depth information for both the new and experienced food preserver. Chapters include Preserving Food, Canning, Pickled Products, Jellied Fruit Products, Freezing and Drying. This new edition has 35 new tested recipes and processes, in addition to a new section with recommended procedures for home-canned salsas The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension first released the So Easy to Preserve book and a video series in 1983.  The University of Georgia has sold tens of thousands of copies to consumers and educators throughout the United States and even other countries.

USDA, the nationwide Cooperative Extension System, and particularly the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension have a long history of providing research-based educational information and recommendations on home food preservation methods.  Cooperative Extension provides educational programs to Georgia citizens as part of the Universitysoeasytopreservecoverphoto of Georgia’s outreach to the state.

Access to other University of Georgia food preservation publications and all the USDA and National Center methods for preserving foods shown in the So Easy to Preserve videos can be found at the website at the bottom of this article.

Preserving Foods: Different methods of food preservation, how they work, the costs to consider and the amounts of foods needed are included to help you select the best method for your lifestyle and product.

Canning: The basics of canning…which method is safe, what equipment will be needed, how to actually perform the steps to ensure a safe product…are provided. Directions are listed for canning many different products.

Pickled Products: Ingredients and equipment needed for successful pickling are discussed. Recipes for cucumber and other vegetable pickles, fruit pickles and a wide assortment of relishes provide the opportunity to add spice to your meals.

Sweet Spreads and Syrups: Jellies, jams, preserves, marmalades, conserves, butters, syrups, refrigerator/freezer jams and jellies, products without added sugar…this chapter has it all. The variety of recipes help you choose the product that is right for you.

Freezing: Freezing is always a safe alternative, but what will the quality of the finished product be like? Details are included about how freezing affects food, which foods do not freeze well, what to do when your freezer breaks down and how to freeze more than 150 different foods.

Drying: Drying is the oldest form of food preservation, and now with electric food dehydrators, it is easier than ever. From tips to help you prepare safer jerky to tips that keep your fruits from darkening, this chapter is where you will find it.

In addition to the topics listed, each chapter includes a list of most frequently asked questions and a table of problems, causes and ways to prevent the problem from happening again. Each chapter is followed by a pocket page that allows you to keep notes and favorite recipes at your fingertips.

If you wish to order a copy for yourself please visit the  University of Georgia Online Bookstore

The National Center for Home Food Processing and Preservation (NCHFP) was established with funding from the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES-USDA) in 2000 as a multi-institutional effort with The University of Georgia and Alabama A&M University as the primary institutions. In addition to conducting research and providing educational outreach to the nationwide Cooperative Extension System, the NCHFP makes available information on home food preservation methods from USDA and the Extension system through a website

Schedule a class or demonstration with our trained Slow Food Preservation Advisors

We are proud to announce the creation of the first ever Slow Food Preservation Advisors group, which will now be operating under the Slow Food Los Angeles umbrella. Our Certified Slow Food Preservation Advisors are trained to teach classes, provide live demonstrations and answer your food preservation questions.

Here are just a few of the topics we are trained to teach:

Water Bath Canning Techniques: Jams, Jellies, Marmalade and Preserves, Fruit Juices, etc.

Pressure Canning Techniques: Vegetables, poultry, meat and fish, soups and more.

Fermentation:   Learn the basics of fermentation and learn to make fermented vegetables.  We can show you how to make everything from a simple sauerkraut to fermented vegetables and kimchi.

Pickling: Learn to pickle many types of vegetables and fruits. From quick pickles to watermelon rinds and Dilly beans.  There are limitless possibilities.

Dairy Craft: Learn to make Yogurts, Labneh, Kefir,  Ice Cream and cheese making with various types of milk including goat, sheep and cows milks.  cheeseplatter.image

Dehydrating:   Learn to make Beef and Turkey Jerky, and dry Fruits and Vegetables. Make your own kale chips and fruit Roll-ups. Learn about savory leathers, and much more.

Freezing for optimal results:   Preparing Food for freezing, blanching, packaging, storing, etc.

Food Handling and Food Safety:  An important subject for everyone to learn.

Kombucha:  Basic kombucha, and fruit infused cultured beverages

Beer, Wine and Mead:  The fascinating history of beer, wine and mead.   Learn to brew  beer, wine and mead at home. Our Classes available for adult audiences.

To request a volunteer for your event please write us at:  We will  be happy to assist you in finding a trained Slow Food Preservation Advisor.