Can you cook botulism out of food?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you cook botulism out of food?”, how to tell if you have botulism, what are the types o botulism, how to prevent botulism, and how to avoid botulism in home-canned foods.

Can you cook botulism out of food?

No, you cannot cook botulism out of food. Botulism is caused by the toxins produced by an anaerobic bacterium, known as Clostridium botulinum. The cooking temperatures are not high enough to destroy these toxins. The incidence of botulism is high in low acid canned, fermented, and minimally processed meat and vegetable products. 

What favors the growth of C.botulinum?

Spores of C.botulinum grow in low acidic conditions. Therefore, preserved or canned high-acid fruits present an unfavorable environment for the growth of C.botulinum. 

Moreover, these pathogenic bacteria thrive in anaerobic or oxygen-deprived environments. If the canned food is improperly handled during canning or filling, C.botulinum stand a high chance of growth. 

What prevents the growth of C.botulinum? 

An acidic environment with a ph below 4.6 and an oxygen-filled environment renders the spores of C.botulinum inactive. Therefore, any food product preserved in a highly acidic solution has the minimum chance of causing botulism. 

How to tell if you have botulism?

Mild symptoms of botulism include fatigue, vertigo, strained vision, dryness in the mouth, and difficulty in speech and eating. 

If left untreated, botulism spreads to your arms and shoulders, which eventually transforms into respiratory failure and paralysis. The main target of the botulism toxin is to knock down your nervous system.

You may start to experience the symptoms of botulism as early as 4 hours or as long as 4 days after eating the contaminated food. Although botulism occurs rarely, its mortality rate is quite high. The patient requires immediate and intense medical attention or things start to deescalate pretty quickly. 

What are the types of botulism?

Other than food-borne botulism, there are the following types of botulism. 

Infant botulism 

As evident from the name of the disease, babies below the age of 6 months are prone to infant botulism. Infant botulism is caused when an infant swallows spores of C.botulinum. The spores, when they reach the gut of the infant, develop into bacteria.

These bacteria, divide exponentially until they start to release toxins into the babies’ guts. The infant has poor immunity and succumbs. Common symptoms are a floppy head, weakness, loss of appetite, constipation, too much, or unusual crying.

Since infants do not take any solid food, what mostly becomes the cause of this disease is contaminated honey. 

Wound botulism 

Wound botulism does not strike until after 2 weeks of the entry of botulinum spores into your wound. The bacteria require a low oxygen environment to multiply, spread, and cause disease.

Wound botulism is a common result of drug abuse.

Inhalation botulism 

As the name suggests, this type of botulism results from inhaling the spores of the C.botulinum from a contaminated environment. The symptoms of the inhalation botulism appear earlier, that is within 1-3 days of exposure but persist longer.

A person infected with inhalation botulism needs to be quarantined. This is an effective way to prevent the spread of the infection.

How to prevent Botulism?

Sticking to the food safety guidelines, basic hygiene, and cleanliness is the key to preventing botulism. This includes proper cooking and handling of the food, personal hygiene, storage of food at safe temperatures, using safe water, and sourcing raw material from a certified supplier.

Note that heat kills the spores of the C.botulinum but not the toxins. Heating or sterilization does not kill 100% of the spores. This means that the food may still become unsafe as a result of improper storage or transport, despite being processed correctly.

To avoid the disease, not only the supply chain has to be foolproof but the consumer should also be well-informed about food safety.

How to avoid botulism in home-canned food?

  1. When home-canning, always abide by the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning.
  1. Since you are most likely to come across botulism in canned low-acid foods, you should take extra care when canning low-acid fruits, veggies, meat, etc. Never use a boiling water canner, or an electric, multi-cooker appliance. Opt for pressure canning for low-acid foods.
  1. Damaged, dented, leaking, bulging, or rusty cans should be tossed in the bin.

Conclusion 

In this article, we answered the question “Can you cook botulism out of food?”, how to tell if you have botulism, what are the types o botulism, how to prevent botulism, and how to avoid botulism in home-canned foods.

References 

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/botulism#:~:text=Though%20spores%20of%20C.,for%205%20minutes%20or%20longer
https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-5567-11
https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/communication/home-canning-and-botulism.html

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