Food Poisoning vs. Botulism

June 22, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Posted in CLEANING, COOKING, Food and Drink, health, sick | 3 Comments
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While doing a search for food safety, I found a very interesting bit of information. Check this out….


Food Poisoning — This occurs when you ingest food or water that contains bacteria, parasites, viruses, or toxins made by these germs. Most cases of food poisoning are from common bacteria such as Staphylococcus, Salmonella, or E. coli. (It can affect just one person or a group of people who all ate the same contaminated food.) Symptoms from the most common types of food poisoning usually start within 2 – 6 hours of ingesting. Symptoms can include stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, weakness, and serious dehydration.

Botulism — This is is an extremely dangerous form of food poisoning that is the result of ingesting food contaminated with C. botulinun, which is a nerve toxin (scared yet?). How can you tell if you’ve contracted botulism instead of ordinary food poisoning? Botulism causes an impairment of the muscular system. As a result, many people affected with botulism will have trouble speaking clearly, their breathing will become difficult and they may complain of having double vision or other visual problems.(GET TO THE ER!)

While eating meat is quite a bit more likely to cause food poisoning than eating vegetables, the actual muscle of an animal that is consumed is actually very safe as long as it doesn’t have the skin. That is the reason that you can feel safe eating rare steak, but would never eat rare chicken. It is the skin that is the breeding ground for most bacteria. Cutting through the skin during preparation spreads the dangerous bacteria.  The skin actually acts to protect meat from the bacteria that is crawling all over it, but once the meat is sliced, the bacteria races in to invade. (Which is why hand washing is so important. Beware that studies show that long fingernails carry and transmit lots of extra bacteria too, ladies.) After using a chopping board to cut meat, DO NOT use it again until it has been thoroughly cleaned.  NEVER, EVER allow your raw meat to touch  any other food, for that matter. (Beware of hand towels during prep too. Once you’ve used that towel during meat prep, throw it in the wash with some bleach to avoid cross-contamination.)


Dented Cans Anyone?

September 6, 2009 at 8:32 pm | Posted in CLEANING | Leave a comment
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So I am cleaning out my pantry tonight.

I’ve got these spiffy black and white woven nylon baskets that I intend to organize the cans and boxes and various packages into. I’ve had a really hard time cooking or even getting up the INTEREST to cook anything lately. (Which is a little bit due to the sleep deprivation that I’m suffering from after getting up to see my oldest off to the bus each morning this week.) So I figured it would help to know what was actually IN my pantry. Maybe if I could find something I could bring myself to cook something that isn’t already pre-prepared, frozen, and requires no actual preparation. Laaaaaazy…. So anyway, that is what prompted my little project….

So as I am checking the dates on the cans, I started tossing out cans that were a little dented. My friend that helped me clean out my pantry last time (yes she is THAT awesome) told me that any and all dented cans are dangerous and would KILL ME. Dead, dead, dead.

But—-after a trash can FULL of expired cans and dented cans, I started being really annoyed because the girls stand on them (the cans) to see and reach what is stored on the higher shelves. Then they (the cans, not the girls- uh, usually anyway) get knocked over and dented. Food is expensive. I can’t seem to stay within my weekly budget and here they are denting up all the canned food! Arrrgghhhh….

It didn’t seem fair to be throwing out each and every can that they had knocked down from a shelf or kicked over accidentally. So I did a little research and here is what I found:

Here’s the highlights:

“The number one way to tell if a can is potentially dangerous is to push on the top and bottom of the can. If the top or bottom of the can moves in any way or makes a popping sound, the can’s seal has been broken and air has made its way inside. Popped cans should be discarded or returned to the store where they were purchased for replacement. On the other hand, if the can does not make a noise or move, it is most likely safe to eat despite any dents.

Another way to tell if a can is safe to eat is by simply looking at the can. If the can is bulging and bloated it is most likely unsafe. Cans will bulge and bloat when bacteria begins to produce gasses which push the can outward. You can also tell by looking at the dented can if it rusting. Rust can weaken the integrity of the can and allow air and bacteria to enter it.

Sometimes cans can be fine when they originally get dented, but after a period of time begin to display some of the above changes. So when buying dented cans try to avoid buying cans that are dented on the top or bottom of the cans. These are where the main seams of the can are located and where the can is it’s weakest. Alternatively, if the can is dented along the side it is most likely safe to eat the food within.

The final way you can tell if a dented can is safe to eat is when you open it. Once you puncture the can with your can opener it should not spray or explode. If it does spray or explode do not eat the food within it may be contaminated. Safe dented cans will open the same as non dented cans.”

And if that isn’t enough, here is another site that provides similar info:

“When a can is dented near a seam or a junction, it makes it possible for air to enter the can. A sharp dent can cause a pinhole in the can, which could also allow air to enter. This air, combined with the moisture in the can, allows the growth of microorganisms. These microorganisms cannot be killed by cooking. Consumption of this food could potentially result in botulism. Cans that are bulging or have rust that will not wipe off are also deemed unsafe.
Feel the can and visually inspect it. SAFE cans have smooth dents, dents that are not on the seams, dents that do not compromise can junctures.
DISCARD cans with dents on seams, dents where side and end meet, sharp dents, swelling or bulging, rust that does not wipe off If in doubt, throw it out.”

And did you know that they publish a poster for the employees of grocery stores to know which cans are dangerous and should be discarded? Here is info on ordering one for your very own self:

The “Classification of Visible Can Defects Poster” is a great way to help personnel learn how to quickly identify defects and the degree of acceptable damage in regards to dented cans. This 24″ x 36″ poster consists of colorful pictures and easy to follow descriptions that illustrate the amount of damage on a can.  This poster is published and available for purchase through AOAC for $29 a poster, $125 for a package of 10. Customers can order through AOAC’s website at Download information about the dented can posters.

And finally, this is what the USDA has to say about canned food safety:
“While extremely rare, a toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum is the worst danger in canned foods. NEVER USE food from containers that show signs of “botulism”: leaking, bulging, rusting, or badly dented cans; cracked jars; jars with loose or bulging lids; canned food with a foul odor; or any container that spurts liquid when opening. DO NOT TASTE THIS FOOD! Even the tiniest amount of botulinum toxin can be deadly.”

So after all said and done, I’m throwing out the of the “iffy” cans:

Any with rust or any that appear to have a dent on a seam or top or bottom. So far, the only dented ones I’ve found are recent and ‘safe’ dents. But the rusty ones are definitely going into the trash bin. How long have I had them that they actually RUSTED??? And Dude, how would you even rust a can if you tried?




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