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Canned food

A spoonful of the stuff may be enough to kill 100,000 people

Ever hear of a little bacterium-caused illness known as botulism? It’s a serious condition often caused by consuming improperly stored or preserved food. Clostridium botulinum is the bacterium’s name, and it just loves spoiling the party—literally.

Botulinum will munch on exposed food and then produce one of the most lethal toxins, BTX. BTX is produced commercially for medical, cosmetic and research purposes. However, you can make your own at home by improperly canning food or purchasing poorly prepared food storage items. While some may argue that the chances of contracting botulism, an infection of the BTX toxin, are slim, do you really want to play Russian roulette?

Think heating some cloudy peas will eliminate the danger? Think again. Though the toxin itself succumbs to heat, botulism spores are heat resistant and difficult to destroy. If the spores aren’t killed in the canning process, they can reanimate into the bacterium, which will produce more toxin. Think the Walking Dead on a micro scale. Yum.

So how do we stay safe? First, always inspect a jar or a can before opening it. Press the middle of a canning lid with your finger. If it springs up, then it wasn’t properly sealed and could contain a nasty little surprise. Tapping the jar with a spoon should yield a clean ringing sound—consider a dull sound the equivalent of a death knell.

Bulging cans are also a no-no. The cans will bulge because of gasses that are produced from bacteria and can indicate contamination. Other indicators that you should not eat canned or jarred food storage include:

  • Cracks
  • Rust
  • Leaks
  • Dents
  • Lids that do not “pop” when opened
  • Bad smell (BTX has no odor, but other less deadly, though dangerous bacteria do.)
  • Cloudiness of food
  • Cans and jars that have been frozen or immersed in water

While it is true that some indicators such as dents and cloudiness may not indicate spoilage, the question to ask yourself is, do you really want to take that chance?


One Response to “The Little Thing in Your Pantry That Could Kill You”

  1. Ramonita Flores

    Thank you. Good information to know. I appreciate it.