By Michelle Fabio
In a sad reminder to tomato canners everywhere, 14 people were recently admitted to a Russian hospital, one of whom later died, because of an outbreak of botulism; the source was found to be homemade canned tomatoes consumed at a family gathering.
Botulism is an illness caused by the toxin “botulin” produced by Clostridium botulinum. As this toxin is one of the most powerful, for humans even one microgram can be lethal.
While botulism is a rather rare illness–there are usually fewer than 30 food-borne cases of botulism per year in the United States–and particularly in a food with high acidity like tomatoes, it can be deadly.
Here are a few things you can do to prevent botulism from affecting you and your family.
(1) As high temperatures kill the botulism toxin, follow The Tomato Queen’s advice when canning tomatoes.
(2) Before eating the canned tomatoes, boil them for at least 10 minutes.
(3) Discard any jars that have lost their airtight seal.
As the botulin toxin inhibits nerve function that leads to respiratory and musculoskeletal paralysis, symptoms of botulism can include dry mouth, slurred speech, double and/or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing, muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, vomiting, incontinence, and diarrhea.
If you are experiencing any of these, particularly within 6-36 hours after eating canned goods, get to the hospital immediately.