What foods can give a person botulism?

By Susan Brewer, Ph.D., University of Illinois,
Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition

Clostridium botulin grows only in low-acid foods such as vegetables, meats, and fish which are packaged without oxygen—canned, vacuum-packaged, or packaged in modified atmosphere packaging gas that contains no oxygen. Clostridium  botulinum produces spores which are like seeds.  The spores wait until conditions are right to germinate into the live bacteria that produces toxin.  Spores require extreme conditions to inactivate them.  This is why low acid foods are canned at very high temperatures (240°F), which can be achieved only in a pressure canner or commercial retort.  If spores survive, they germinate, producing toxin in the food.
FDA, 2008. Bad Bug Book.”Foodborne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins Handbook.” Clostridium botulinum.
Kendall, P. 2008.  “Bacterial food-borne illness.”  Cooperative Extension Service. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO.  Fact sheet No. 9.300.
U.S.D.A. 2006. “The USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning.” 


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