Health Canada

Health Canada

September 28, 2010 14:53 ET

Reminding Canadians of Potential Safety Concerns in Home Canning and Bottling

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 28, 2010) - Health Canada would like to remind Canadians of the importance of good food safety practices while home canning.

With the renewed popularity of seasonal, local eating and the desire to prepare healthy foods at home, many Canadians are looking to home canning (also known as home bottling) to preserve food for later use. However, if home canned foods are not properly prepared, they can cause serious illness such as botulism.

If you are home canning or bottling your own foods (such as jams, pickles, soups and sauces), the following steps will help to reduce the risk of contamination or growth from Clostridium botulinum:

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

  • Use a pressure canner and strictly follow the manufacturer's instructions for canning or bottling foods considered to be low-acid, such as seafood, meats, vegetables and sauces. These low-acid foods must be processed in a pressure canner to destroy any Clostridium botulinum spores that might be present. 

  • High-acid foods such as fruit, pickles, sauerkraut, jams, jellies, marmalades and fruit butters will not support the growth of Clostridium botulinum and can be safely processed in a boiling water canner.

  • Tomatoes are borderline high-acid food and require an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, to be added for safer canning.

  • When following recipes, do not substitute ingredients, amounts or the jar size that is in the recipe because this can cause the time or pressure needed during pressure canning or boiling water canning to change. This can lead to bacteria remaining in the food. Always process to the recommended temperature, time and pressure.

  • When you are storing your home canned food, be sure to label and date all home canned food. If you store your home canned food in a cool, dry place it will be at its best eating quality for at least one year.

  • The jar lid should be firmly sealed and concave (curved slightly inwards). Nothing should have leaked from the jar, no unnatural odours should be detected, and no liquid should spurt out when the jar is opened.

  • If you are buying or are gifted home canned products, ask if they have followed proper safety steps.

Always remember: never eat canned foods if you suspect the item has been tampered with, if the closure/seal has been broken, 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 a bacterium – called Clostridium botulinum – that naturally produces toxins as part of its normal life cycle. The toxin that causes botulism is colourless, odourless, tasteless and invisible to the naked eye and is not necessarily destroyed by cooking, so preventing the toxin from forming is essential.

Symptoms of botulism range from nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, headache, double vision and 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 2 hours to 14 days, although some symptoms may linger much longer.

It is estimated that there are approximately 11 million cases of food-related illnesses of all types 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, please visit:

Government of Canada's Home Canning Safety Tip Sheet (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/kitchen-cuisine/food-canning-conserve-aliment-eng.php)

Government of Canada's Home Canning and Bottling of Fish and other Shellfish Safety Tips sheet (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/kitchen-cuisine/fish-canning-conserve-poisson-eng.php)

Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education's Be Food Safe Canada Campaign (www.befoodsafe.ca)

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Contact Information

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    Health Canada
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