Health Canada

Health Canada

March 10, 2011 13:40 ET

Avoid Potential Safety Concerns in Home Canning and Bottling of Seafood

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 10, 2011) - Health Canada would like to remind Canadians of the importance of food safety while home canning and home bottling seafood such as fish and shellfish.

Home canning and bottling of fish and other seafood is a popular activity for many Canadians. However, improper preparation, canning or storage of these foods can cause serious illness, such as botulism.

If you are home canning or bottling your own seafoods (including clams, lobster and whelks), the following steps will help to reduce the risks of botulism:

  • Use a pressure canner and strictly follow the manufacturer's instructions for canning or bottling low-acid foods, such as fish and shellfish.

  • Clean and sanitize your hands, all work surfaces, utensils, and equipment and keep them clean during all stages of the canning process.

  • Follow the recipe exactly. Don't substitute ingredients, amounts or change the jar size that the recipe calls for because this can cause the time or pressure needed during pressure canning to change, leading to bacteria remaining in the food. Use the canned or bottled food within one year.

  • Once the container has been opened, refrigerate leftovers immediately. 

Never eat canned foods if you suspect it has been tampered with, if the seal has been broken, the lid is popped, or if the container is swollen or leaking. If in doubt, throw it out!

Botulism is a serious illness that can result from eating improperly prepared canned or bottled foods. Botulism is caused by bacteria that naturally produce toxins as part of their normal life cycle. The toxin that causes botulism is colourless, odourless, tasteless and invisible to the naked eye and isn't necessarily destroyed by cooking, so preventing the toxin from forming is essential.

Symptoms of botulism range from nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, headache, double vision, dryness in the throat and nose to respiratory failure, paralysis and, in some cases, death. The onset of symptoms is generally from 12 to 36 hours after ingesting the toxin. The duration of illness may be two hours to 14 days, although some symptoms may last longer.

It's estimated that there are approximately 11 million cases of food-related illnesses in Canada every year. Many of these illnesses could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.

For more information on food safety tips for home canning and bottling of fish and other seafood, please visit:

Government of Canada's Home Canning and Bottling of Fish and other Shellfish Safety Factsheet (

Government of Canada's Home Canning and Botulism Factsheet ( )

Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education's Be Food Safe Canada Campaign ( )

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