|Script: What is Botulism?
Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection
Service "Food Safety At Home" podcast series, featuring topics
for the safe handling, preparation and storage of meat, poultry
and processed egg products. So, sit back, turn up the volume and
Letís talk about Botulism!
What is Botulism? Foodborne botulism is a severe type of food
poisoning caused by the ingestion of foods containing a potent
neurotoxin which forms during growth of the bacterium,
Clostridium botulinum is a bacterium that grows in the
absence of oxygen that produces a potent neurotoxin that attacks
the nervous system. Botulism spores allow the bacteria to
survive in a dormant state until exposed to conditions that can
support their growth.
The classic symptoms of botulism include double vision, blurred
vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing,
dry mouth and muscle weakness. Infants with botulism appear
lethargic, feed poorly, are constipated, have a weak cry and
poor muscle tone. These are all symptoms of the muscle paralysis
caused by the bacterial toxin. If untreated, these symptoms may
progress to cause paralysis of the arms, legs, trunk and
In foodborne botulism, symptoms generally begin 18 to 36 hours
after eating a contaminated food, but could occur as early as
six hours or as late as 10 days after consumption.
If diagnosed early, foodborne botulism can be treated with an
antitoxin which blocks the reproductive ability of toxins
circulating in the blood, thus preventing the condition from
Incidences of foodborne botulism are often caused from
improperly home-canned foods with low acid content, such as
asparagus, green beans, beets and corn.
Individuals who can foods in their own home should follow strict
hygienic procedures and follow USDA recommended canning
guidelines to reduce contamination of foods. Because the
botulism toxin is destroyed by high temperatures, you should
consider boiling home-canned foods for 10 minutes before eating
Before buying frozen, fully-cooked products in grocery stores
carefully inspect the container or package. If the package is
punctured, torn, partially opened, or damaged in any other way
that might expose the contents to the outside environment, do
NOT purchase the product.
You should never purchase containers that appear swollen or seem
to have excess gases. Always observe any use-by or sell-by dates
When you open a jar of home-canned food, thoroughly inspect the
product. Do not use products that are discolored, moldy or have
an off odor. Do not use products that spurt liquid or foam when
the container is opened. Never taste the product to
determine if it is safe.
Remember to always Be Food Safe and Clean, Separate, Cook and
Chill to reduce your risk of foodborne illness.
Thanks for listening to this Food Safety At Home podcast. Let us know what you think of this podcast by sending
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Last Modified: May 11, 2011