Health Canada

Health Canada

November 16, 2010 12:12 ET

Reminding Canadians of Potential Risks of Consuming Vegetables and Herbs Stored in Oil

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 16, 2010) - Health Canada would like to inform Canadians of the importance of safe food handling practices when preparing and/or consuming vegetables and herbs stored in oil, such as garlic, onions, sun-dried tomatoes, hot peppers, mushrooms, rosemary, chives, sage, basil, and dill.

Vegetables and herbs stored in oil are a popular home-prepared food item and in some cases, are also prepared commercially. However, if food is improperly prepared, canned, heat-processed, bottled, or stored, it can cause serious illness, such as botulism.

Below are some easy-to-follow tips to help you reduce your risk:

  • Home-prepared products stored in oil (e.g., vegetables, herbs and spices) should only be made using fresh ingredients, and should be kept in the refrigerator and discarded after one week.
  • Commercially-prepared products should be refrigerated after opening and between each use.
  • Consumers who purchase products such as those outlined above from fairs, farmers' markets or roadside stands or receive them as a gift should check when they were prepared and discard them if they are more than a week old.
  • Date and label preserves and canned goods and strictly follow proper canning/bottling requirements.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, before and after handling food.
  • Keep all work surfaces, food, utensils, equipment, and hands clean during all stages of the canning/bottling process.
  • Refrigerate all foods labelled "keep refrigerated."
  • If you experience symptoms of botulism, seek medical attention immediately.

Botulism is a serious illness that can result from eating improperly prepared and stored 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 food poisoning can range from nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, double vision, dryness of throat, weakness 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'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 vegetables and herbs stored in oil, please visit:

Health Canada's Food Safety Tips for Vegetables and Herbs stored in Oil ( )

Canadian Food Inspection Agency's webpage on Vegetables and Herbs in Oil ( )

It's Your Health on Garlic-in-oil ( )

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

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