Botulism is an incredibly serious food-borne illness, and the Castleberry’s recall means we should remind ourselves of the symptoms. According to WebMD they are:
- Double vision
- blurred vision
- drooping eyelids
- slurred speech
- difficulty swallowing
- dry mouth
- muscle weakness
Infants with botulism appear
- feed poorly
- have a weak cry
- have poor muscle tone
These are the first signs of the muscle paralysis the bacteria inflicts. Untreated, they can lead to limb paralysis, or lung paralysis, in which case you’re probably going to die. Symptoms usually appear 16-36 hours later, but can show up as soon as 6 hours and as late as 10 days.
If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
Q: How do I avoid botulism poisoning in my potato salad and deviled eggs during the summer picnic season? I am very concerned about this.
— Chris Snashall, Grove City, Ohio
A: Let’s first distinguish between botulism and other forms of foodborne illnesses.
Botulism is a severe illness in which a nerve toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum causes paralysis — and in severe cases, death.
Botulism is most often caused by food that isn’t properly home-canned. Typically it results when low-acid foods (such as potatoes or green beans) are not pressure-canned; the high temperature of that process is required to make them safe.
Because the botulinum toxin is destroyed by high temperatures, people who eat home-canned foods should, to ensure safety, consider boiling the food for 10 minutes before eating it. (or follow evaluated, science-based recipes/processing times -ben)
Other common causes of botulism are home-made herb or garlic oils that aren’t refrigerated, and potatoes that have been wrapped in foil to bake and either not kept hot enough or refrigerated in the foil. In both cases, the bacteria are left at a temperature at which they can multiply rapidly. (first they go from spore form to vegetative cell and then secrete the toxin while multiplying -ben).
Unless you are making your potato salad and deviled eggs with home-canned foods, botulism should not be a concern.
In 2015, home canned potatoes used in potato salad caused one of the largest bot outbreaks in the U.S. with over 20 illnesses and two deaths.
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