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Botulism? Reusing jars?


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#1 A mother a survivor

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 09:28 PM

I have read this board and I am learning so much! I do have a question though. I have some jars of tomato sauce that I made my own recipe for (I added onions and herbs) and I realise that it is not "safe" to do so. I also did this with making my own peach chutney. I have not opened or used any of this canned food. I am now going to toss all this food. Since I know botulism spores cannot be killed by boiling water...do you have to toss jars that are questionable? I honestly "believe" the food is fine, but I don't want to try it. I could bury it way deep, but what about all my jars (over 40!!!)

What can be done (if anything?) to clean the jars? Are they no longer reusable?



#2 serendipity

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 10:00 PM

I am so sorry, a mother, a survivor! What a bummer!

Violet could help you more here, but anything I have ever read about possibly contaminated or unsafe food has said to dispose of the entire thing.

frown

I wonder if it might be more to prevent handling unsafe food, than the fact that the glass may be contaminated too, but irregardless, that is what I recall reading.

Sorry!

Maybe someone else would be able to better advise you.
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#3 A mother a survivor

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 10:06 PM

Thanks...I really think the food is fine, but....I don't want to take any chances. This also makes me worried about getting used/second hand jars from garage sales. I can never find any jars that way (I never get that lucky!) but my MIL does!

#4 Violet

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 12:24 AM

If they are sealed, don't open them. If you do, think about it. You risk splattering it on something. That or even breathing it in. Only a pinpoint amount can kill an entire city of about 60,000 people. Good terrorist method... that is one of the conspiracy theories out there now on the news today. The salmonella in the tomatoes or whatever it is in may be a terrorist thing. Who really knows ?
Well, anyway, you technically could detoxify, but it is not worth it. You have to wear big gloves, boil it all, then still you need to bury the jars or put in big trash bags and haul to a dump for disposal.
I would just be thankful you are safe and have not gotten ill from any of it. Use it as a learning experience. Jars can be replaced. You can't.
I am sorry about your food and jars, I truly am.
When you get used jars, wash in bleach solution first.
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#5 preparing

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 12:36 AM

I thought you could boil food for 15 minutes and it killed all traces of it, which would mean the jars would be safe to use because of the boiling water. I must have misunderstood DarleneSwoon

#6 Tracie

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 01:01 AM

Originally Posted By: preparing
I thought you could boil food for 15 minutes and it killed all traces of it, which would mean the jars would be safe to use because of the boiling water. I must have misunderstood DarleneSwoon


I thought that too, or at least that's what my mom always told me.
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#7 SugarDaisy

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 02:29 PM

I also though boiling would kill botulism.



#8 Tracie

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 04:30 PM

http://www.cfsan.fda...~mow/chap2.html

"Foodborne botulism (as distinct from wound botulism and infant botulism) is a severe type of food poisoning caused by the ingestion of foods containing the potent neurotoxin formed during growth of the organism. The toxin is heat labile and can be destroyed if heated at 80C for 10 minutes or longer."

Still if something smelled funky, I'd never eat it.

But if food seemed otherwise fine, boiling for 10 minutes should kill any botulism, according to this website.
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#9 Wendy

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 06:47 PM

I think it would kill the toxin that the botulism makes but not the spores themselves. Although, the spores, I think are harmless unless they are given an environment to make the toxin. Or at least that's how I understand it.

#10 JCK88

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 08:40 PM

The National Center for Home Food Preservation suggests this:

>>>Before discarding, detoxify any jar of spoiled low-acid food by removing the jar lid, taking care not to spill the contents. Then place the jar, its contents, and the loose lid in hot water and add enough water to cover the jar. Boil all items in the water for 30 minutes. Cool and discard jar contents in the garbage. >>>

http://cetuolumne.ucdavis.edu/newsletterfi...es_20056871.doc

Botulism is so dangerous that you don't just want to dump your jars in the trash to cause trouble somehwere else. If you live rural, you don't want it in your compost heap. So boiling for half an hour kills the toxins, allows you to dispose of the food in the same way you dispose of regular garbage and the jars can then be cleaned with bleach and sterilized and reused.



#11 MommaDogs

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 11:26 PM

Bleach kills everything. AIDS, parvovirus, the worst things I can imagine... are we saying that it won't kill botulism? I'm confused.

I also read that when you open a jar of ... whatever... boil for 10-12 minute to make sure it is safe.
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#12 nmchick

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 01:52 AM

There are two things we're talking about here, botulism spores and botulism toxin.

Botulism spores are like little botulism eggs. Under the right conditions, they'll hatch and grow little botulism guys. Pressure canning kills the botulism spores so they can never grow.

If the botulism spores grow, then the little botulism guys pee, (for want of a better word), botulism toxin. It's the botulism toxin/pee that's so deadly. So, no, bleach won't kill it because it's not alive. It's just pee.

But, boiling does break the botulism toxin down so it isn't poison anymore. That's why they say to boil canned foods 15 minutes: to break down the toxin.

Botulism spores are all over the place, in dirt, etc. The spores themselves won't hurt you. But if they are somewhere where they can grow, like a nice airless canning jar, that's when you are in trouble.
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#13 Violet

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 06:43 AM

Well, technically boiling will destroy the toxin, but if you get it on your face,hands,dishcloth, or on the counter when you open those jars with the toxin in them, where will it go ?? What about the can opener you used to pop the seal on the jars with ? What about the spoon you just used to put the food into the pan to boil it with ?
See my point ? Even a pinpoint amount can kill a whole city.
That is why I would not tempt fate and try to open an improperly canned food and try to salvage it or the jars. Too risky.
They are talking about knowing they did not use safe, tested recipes to begin with...


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#14 JCK88

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 07:19 AM

So you think it isn't risky to dump full poison jars in the landfill?? Or you toss it in the trash full--and it breaks all over everything? I think the National Center for Home Food Preservation has that in mind with their suggestion on how to deal with it--and that is how I handle it here. In times past, I have followed that old advice about tossing the entire jar but always wondered...what if it breaks and poisons someone else? I wouldn't want to be responsible for that.

The Centers for Disease control has this advice for cleaning kitchen counters you think might have been contaminated with botulism:

>>Wipe up spills using a bleach solution (use 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, then put the paper towels in the trash. Wipe up any remaining liquid with new paper towels. Clean the area with liquid soap and water to remove the bleach. Wash hands with soap and running water for at least 2 minutes. Sponges, cloths, rags and gloves that may have come into contact with contaminated food or containers should be discarded with the food. >>

http://www.cdc.gov/botulism/botulism_faq.htm

Of course, this article is talking about contaminated commercially canned food, but the clean up process for contaminated home canned would be the same.

#15 MommaDogs

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 10:39 PM

WOW, now I'm scared. frown Yikes. Thanks everyone, I learned something very valuable.
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#16 Violet

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 04:27 AM

Yes, I think it could be risky, but this is what we are taught to do with the jars if they are unopened.
That is what we teach people to do with it. I think it is less risky than opening them yourself and trying to deal with the jars.
My concern with opening them at home is that you may not even see a small speck and that is all it takes to kill or cause paralysis.
Sure, botulism is rare, but still a serious thing, not to be messed with.
If things are canned properly and tested recipes from reliable sources are used, then you won't have to worry about it.

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#17 JCK88

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 08:07 AM

That's true botulism cases really are rare. The cases I have read about usually are people who water bath low-acid vegetables like carrots or beets instead of pressure can them and then stupidly taste them before cooking them. (I am always amazed people will actually water bath these things....geesh)

Our local cooperative extension uses the National Center for Home Food Preservation guidelines now. In the past, they said to dispose of the whole jar--but they don't say that anymore. I called and asked. So what you might be seeing here is another updated canning practice that is in the transition of being changed. So at least consider the information and don't discount it. I am not trying to argue here, merely trying to post what I believe is important and updated info. I was taught to dispose of jars the way you describe but due to the updated info, I would not do it anymore. (And actually, haven't needed to anyway--because as you say, if you do it right, you don't have the problem)

For years, I have written about contamination control in the food and drug industries. I have been a careful home canner for more than 30 years. But I've learned that when it comes to home canning, you have to be willing to let go of old stuff you were taught was right and go forward with the updated stuff. I'm just sayin--we might have been taught one way, but recent national guidelines are now teaching something quite different.

Anyway, it's not like these things are written into law. People can dispose of stuff any way they want:::shrug::

#18 Jules

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 12:22 PM

Great thread, I was wondering if it would be worthwhile to have one of the jars tested in a lab?
Providing they are all from the same batch, if one is contaminated then wouldn't all of them be contaminated? That way you would know for certain if you needed the special precautions that go with disposing of foods and other items that are in contact with botulism toxins.

#19 JCK88

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 12:37 PM

That's the thing. I don't know if it would be worth it to test anything unless someone actually got sick. Sometimes one jar will come unsealed or have a problem the others don't, but you are right, generally speaking if one jar is contaminated, the whole batch is then suspect.

You usually can't tell by just looking at it, but there are often some signs of spoilage such as sediment on the bottom not due to calcium or salts, off color, bad smell, improper seal, molds on the lid, etc. If you suspect there is a problem, you just need to boil everything, dispose of it, and then you can salvage your jar afterwards because it would be safe to touch then and it would be safe to reuse, also.

Here, the only problem I have had that needed fixing was siphoning of liquid. I had that happen to a couple jars, stuck them in the fridge, used them first or dumped it into a freezer container immediately and froze the stuff.

The only time I have gotten rid of canned goods is when the guidelines changed and said you should not can barley or rice in your soups and I had a lot of it on the shelf and although I am reasonably sure it was okay because we had been eating it for years, I decided I should not trust it and got rid of all of it by boiling it all and dumping it on the compost. I had to scrub out the jars, wash in hot soapy water and then for good measure, ran them through the dish washer AND then boiled them, LOL (talk about paranoia)

I shudder to think about the times I made those cakes in a jar that were popular a while back...I didn't learn until way after 1993 these were bad, because by then, I had decided I KNEW how to can and wasn't reading updated canning books!!! Just goes to show ya--we never stop learning about this. I decided then and there that each year, I would review guidelines just as if I were in the food industry myself and had to stay current to keep my license. Nothing like following good manufacturing procedures in your own kitchen!

The best thing you can do as Violet has told everyone many times...is follow proper recipes, proper canning procedures, and you are very unlikely to have the problem ( Also when you are canning low-acid items, use the pressure canner AND boil those foods for 15 minutes before you serve them anyway!)

In SHTF situations, there won't be labs around anyway.


#20 nmchick

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 08:17 PM

Originally Posted By: Jules
Great thread, I was wondering if it would be worthwhile to have one of the jars tested in a lab?
Providing they are all from the same batch, if one is contaminated then wouldn't all of them be contaminated? That way you would know for certain if you needed the special precautions that go with disposing of foods and other items that are in contact with botulism toxins.


No, since botulism is a spore, you might have a spore in just one jar, which could grow and produce toxin. You might pick a jar to test that had no spore to begin with.

Hey Violet, I was wondering about something. Since we know boiling will break the toxin down, what if we pressure canned the alleged contaminated jars for a good long time and then opened them to dump the contents? That should get rid of any toxin....


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