Food Preservation Safety

— Written By Donna Tulley and last updated by


Summer is here! Gardens are growing and the wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables are coming in. Many people are beginning the process of canning and freezing the bounty to preserve it for the coming winter months. But what about food safety?

Following instructions from a reliable source and properly functioning equipment are crucial. The Ball Blue Book of Canning is an excellent resource for the correct preparation methods and how long to cook items using the pressure canner. Another book, So Easy To Preserve, is also an excellent resource. If you have a dial pressure gauge on your canner, you should have it tested at your local Extension Office. Bring in just the gauge to your agent to have it tested.

The home canner’s worst fear is botulism. It is colorless and odorless. It takes 12 – 72 hours for symptoms to occur. Boiling does not kill all of the bacteria. Botulinum spores need temperatures of 240°F to be destroyed. This temperature can only be achieved with a pressure canner. With Botulism poisoning, digestive upset may occur but more commonly the symptoms are blurred vision, difficulty swallowing, speaking and breathing. One milligram of the toxin can kill 655 tons of mice! (Yes, tons! Or if you prefer, 1,310,000 pounds of mice.)  For those of us that are not metric savvy, 1 mg = .000035 ounce. Obviously, it does not take much to make a person ill. Antitoxin is available, but recovery is slow and permanent nerve damage is possible. The downside of this is botulism has a 10-35% mortality rate.

Once you have finished canning, storage is important. Canned foods may be stored for up to 18 months to retain optimal quality. Store them in a cool, dry environment that is between 50°F and 70°F.

Take time to be sure you know the correct method of preservation for the foods you want to save and then follow the directions. If you need more information, call your local Extension Office for help.

In Clay County, we are open Monday thru Friday, 8 am until noon and from 1 pm until 5 pm. For questions call 828-389-6305.

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