May 14, 2009

Agencies warn of seafood home canning

Two Canadian agencies have issued a food safety warning for home canning and bottling of seafood.

Officials of Ottawa Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency remind home canners and consumers that home canning and bottling of seafood is popular in Canada, but food safety awareness should be the priority when home canning or when buying home canned products from vendors.

Improper preparation, canning or storage, especially of low-acid foods such as clams, lobster and whelks, can cause serious illness, even botulism. Botulism is caused by bacteria that produce colorless, odorless, tasteless, invisible toxins not necessarily destroyed by cooking.

To keep home canned food safe, the Canadian health agencies advise canners remember to:

-- Use a pressure canner and strictly follow the manufacturer's instructions for low-acid food canning or bottling. Recipe ingredients, amounts, or jar sizes should not be changed because these can affect times/pressures needed and could result in bacteria remaining in the food.

-- Clean and keep sanitizing hands, all work surfaces, food, utensils, and equipment during all stages of the canning process.

-- Use home canned product within one year. Once the container has been opened, refrigerate leftovers immediately.

-- Never eat canned foods if the closure or seal has been broken, or if the container is swollen or leaking. If in doubt, throw it out.