OTTAWA – Health Canada would like to remind Canadians of the importance of good food safety practices while home canning.
With the renewed popularity of seasonal, local eating and the desire to prepare healthy foods at home, many Canadians are looking to home canning (usually with glass jars) to preserve food for later use. If, however, home canned foods are not properly prepared, they can cause serious illness such as botulism.
If you are home canning your own foods (such as jams, pickles, soups, sauces and seafood), the following steps will help to reduce the risk of contamination or growth from Clostridium botulinum:
Always remember: never eat canned foods if you suspect the item has been tampered with, if the closure/seal has been broken, or if the container is swollen or leaking. When in doubt, throw it out!
Botulism is a serious illness that can result from eating improperly prepared canned or bottled foods. Botulism is caused by a bacterium – called Clostridium botulinum – that naturally produces toxins as part of its normal life cycle. The toxin that causes botulism is colourless, odourless, tasteless and invisible to the naked eye and is not necessarily destroyed by cooking. Preventing the toxin from forming is therefore essential.
Symptoms of botulism range from nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, headache, double vision and dryness in the throat and nose, to respiratory failure, paralysis and, in some cases, death. The onset of symptoms is generally from 12 to 36 hours after ingesting the toxin. Recovery can take several weeks to months.
It is estimated that there are approximately 11 million cases of food-related illnesses of all types in Canada every year. Many of these illnesses could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.
It is important to understand the principles behind home canning so that food is produced safely at home. If necessary, consider taking short courses on food canning that are often available locally across the country.
For more information on food safety tips for home canning and bottling, please visit:
- Government of Canada’s Home Canning Safety Tip Sheet
- Government of Canada’s Home Canning and Bottling of Fish and other Shellfish Safety Tips sheet
- Food-Related Illnesses:Botulism
- Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education’s Be Food Safe Canada Campaign
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