Botulism from fermented foods? - Mothering Forums

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Old 06-25-2007, 06:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Has anyone ever had a problem with botulism from fermented foods? I have a friend who thinks she might have gotten botulism from her Kraut. I've been fermenting so much for a while and never had a problem. I'm thinking it's probably the government trying to cause paranoia, but I told her I'd post this. Any thoughts?
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Old 06-25-2007, 06:58 PM
 
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Err, isn't botulism usually fatal? If your friend is ok, it's probably not botulism.

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Old 06-25-2007, 11:24 PM
 
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absolutely no way its botulism! it's fatal in teeny tiny doses.
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Old 06-26-2007, 12:44 AM
 
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The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the current mortality rate is 5% (type B) to 10% (type A). Other sources report that, in the U.S., the overall mortality rate is about 7.5%, but the mortality rate among adults 60 years and older is 30%. The mortality rate for wound botulism is about 10%. The infant botulism mortality rate is about 1.3%.
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Old 06-26-2007, 01:02 AM
 
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The wiki also says the death rate is over 60% if left untreated, so it is still a pretty dangerous beastie.

I hope your friend doesn't have botulism.

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Old 06-26-2007, 01:04 AM
 
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wow!

: thanks!
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Old 06-26-2007, 01:19 AM
 
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how would you know if your ferments were infected with botulism though? but wouldn't it smell or look bad?

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Old 06-26-2007, 02:00 AM
 
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I was looking it up, and apparently it is an anaerobic bacteria, so it grows better in sealed jars or cans where it is not exposed to oxygen. Its source is soil or water, and common places it is found: improperly processed low-acid canned foods, garlic-in-oil products, grilled onions, leftover stews, potatoes, and vaccum packaged foods. Death was not listed as a symptom, but I do know it can cause hospitalization. Respiratory paralysis, inability to swallow, vertigo, and visual disturbaces are the symptoms. It lasts about 12-36 hours- but could last several days to a year- ouch. Totally possible to get from home canned goods. My info came from a book by Joanne Stepniak and Vestano Melina.

When I was in college, I went to visit some friends at a different uni, and they worked at a pizza place. They gave me and dp free pizza. As we were finishing it, they informed us they had been cited by the health inspector for having veggies contaminated with botulism. Luckily, as far as I know, we were ok.
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Old 06-26-2007, 02:01 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone. She had what she thought was a horrid detox from the kraut, but she hasn't talked to anyone else who had any kind of experience like hers. She read some things that warned about botulism with fermented foods and she began to wonder. Her doc told her she had a high bacteria count in a stool test although I can't remember the exact strain right now. She is trying to piece together what happened to her and find some answers.
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Old 06-26-2007, 02:15 AM
 
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Wow. I hope your friend feels better. Now I'm afraid of eating anything :
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Old 06-26-2007, 02:18 AM
 
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Please let us know what her conclusion is. This is fascinating and scary.
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Old 06-26-2007, 10:10 AM
 
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No kidding. Honestly this thread has me Who knew? I thought botulism was always fatal. YIKES.

It's funny I remember my mother would never buy dented cans (of tomato sauce, fruits, veggies etc) at the grocery store because she said you could get botulism that way. She also said you could get typhus (or was it polio? lol) from letting your lips touch the metal on a drinking fountain. :
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Old 06-26-2007, 11:48 AM
 
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In a novel I read once (can't remember which one) there was an old woman who died suddenly of botulism about an hour after consuming some home canned green beans.

Yeah I know, not really relevant, I just wanted to add that.

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Old 06-26-2007, 01:03 PM
 
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I've wondered the same thing -about possible botulism in fermented foods- but maybe the high acidity (due to the lactic acid) would inhibit boutulism from replicating in fermented foods- really this is total speculation-I don't know if this is true, but maybe something I should research more about. Glad your friend is doing better.
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Old 06-26-2007, 01:05 PM
 
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wow...so, that brings up a ton of questions...

can you tell if something has been contaminated or does it taste the same?
are certain types of ferments more suseptible?
what is the risk?
The WHO does recommend fermenting as a way to make water and food saver to eat ( esp in developing countries) so that makes me think the risks are minimal?

:

Should I stop giving my kids fermented drinks and veggies?

Tanya
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Old 06-26-2007, 01:19 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Nikki98 View Post
I've wondered the same thing -about possible botulism in fermented foods- but maybe the high acidity (due to the lactic acid) would inhibit boutulism from replicating in fermented foods- really this is total speculation-I don't know if this is true, but maybe something I should research more about. Glad your friend is doing better.
Well, I guess I'm wrong (wouldn't be the first time ) feremented foods can become contaminated with botulism-I just googled and found that out. There have been an increased number of cases of this happening in Alaska, because they ferment some foodstuffs. Now I'm intrigued about this.
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Old 06-26-2007, 01:21 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Tcarwyn View Post
wow...so, that brings up a ton of questions...

can you tell if something has been contaminated or does it taste the same?
are certain types of ferments more suseptible?
what is the risk?
The WHO does recommend fermenting as a way to make water and food saver to eat ( esp in developing countries) so that makes me think the risks are minimal?

:

Should I stop giving my kids fermented drinks and veggies?

Tanya
Good questions! One of the articles that I was reading stated that it isn't really a good idea to ferment things in plastic-for some reason it seems as if things feremented in plastic become contaminated more often.
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Old 06-26-2007, 01:24 PM
 
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so, uh, any answers?: Anyone?!! I am a little freaked right now.:

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Old 06-26-2007, 01:40 PM
 
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Well I found some interesting articles:

1) http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/fcs3/fcs3330/fcs3330.htm

2) http://www.answers.com/topic/fermentation-food

3) http://www2.cdc.gov/phtn/botulism/who/who.asp

what I thought was particularly interesting (from the last article) was that when the Alaskans feremented foods traditionally (in the ground-not using plastic containers) there was no botulism found in those particular feremented foods-amazing really.
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Old 06-26-2007, 01:43 PM
 
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Good questions! One of the articles that I was reading stated that it isn't really a good idea to ferment things in plastic-for some reason it seems as if things feremented in plastic become contaminated more often.
Here's a really interesting look at that (it's from the blog of a woman who works in a hospital in Alaska): http://tundramedicinedreams.blogspot...-botulism.html

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Old 06-26-2007, 01:46 PM
 
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Mamas, I wouldn't worry too much about botulism from your home ferments. Here is the WHO page for botulism: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/who270/en/ and it says:

"Refrigeration temperatures combined with salt content and/or acidic conditions will prevent the growth or formation of toxin."

It also says that botulism poisoning is rare.

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Old 06-26-2007, 01:48 PM
 
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the acid in fermented food would kill botulism.
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Old 06-26-2007, 01:51 PM
 
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http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09305.html Check out this link. I think the main idea is that if you add enough salt you keep the botulism at bay while the lactic acid bacteria produce acid. Botulism can't grow in a high salt low pH (acidic) envirionment. From what I know, it can produce gas and has no smell. I can't seem to get past the idea of the botulism thing so I really havn't fermented veggies although I would like to. I'm just too scared. I'm considering taking some classes through the master preservers to find out more regarding the safety. I have to say that this is the one thing I did not like about nourishing traditions. SF did not discuss safety issues at all.
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Old 06-26-2007, 03:36 PM
 
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I have to say that this is the one thing I did not like about nourishing traditions. SF did not discuss safety issues at all.
That's for sure. We know a lot more about food safety now and it would be great to combine that knowledge with the old fashioned food preparation methods... best of both worlds, kwim?

Does cooking kill botulism? no, right? I think it survives really high temps if I recall correctly.
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Old 06-26-2007, 04:34 PM
 
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Mamas, I wouldn't worry too much about botulism from your home ferments. Here is the WHO page for botulism: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/who270/en/ and it says:

"Refrigeration temperatures combined with salt content and/or acidic conditions will prevent the growth or formation of toxin."

It also says that botulism poisoning is rare.
Thats what I was thinking, the acidity would keep botulism from forming, maybe I'm not completely wrong after all .
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Old 06-26-2007, 04:37 PM
 
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http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09305.html Check out this link. I think the main idea is that if you add enough salt you keep the botulism at bay while the lactic acid bacteria produce acid. Botulism can't grow in a high salt low pH (acidic) envirionment. From what I know, it can produce gas and has no smell. I can't seem to get past the idea of the botulism thing so I really havn't fermented veggies although I would like to. I'm just too scared. I'm considering taking some classes through the master preservers to find out more regarding the safety. I have to say that this is the one thing I did not like about nourishing traditions. SF did not discuss safety issues at all.
Good point, I think that is probably one of the reasons some may be a little apprehensive about NT (in general)is because of the way she presents fermentation - no worries right? I know when I started fermenting stuff, dh said he was worried of what could happen to me: (to tell the truth I had some apprehension as well).

Is the book by Sandor K. (Wild Fermentation) more comprehensive about safety issues?
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Old 06-26-2007, 05:58 PM
 
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I didn't find Wild Fermentation any better than NT regarding safety issues. I even emailed Sandor Katz and he said not to worry, fermenting foods is very safe. Uhh... not quite enough info for me there although it was nice of him to try to reassure me. BTW, the toxin is detroyed by heat, but I would still choose not to eat something suspect rather than risking it- better to just dump it. Actually, I think that is why when eating canned foods I have read that you should heat it thoroughly for 10 minutes at whatever temp is recommended- boiling? Heating does not kill the spores. We eat botulism spores all the time in honey and other things, but our stomachs are too acidic to allow them to start growing.

I think if you have a lot of confidence in what you are doing, and know exactly what is going on during the fermentation process, and how to do it, there is very little to worry about. Like I said before, a high salt concentration inhibits botulism, adding whey innoculates it with good bacteria which will start producing acid. Even so, I still have trouble experimenting with fermentation. Seems silly to be so freaked out about it, but I just dont' think I can do it yet. I would be very tempted to test the pH as the fermentation progresses just to monitor. It probably isn't necessary, I'm just a nervous nelly.
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Old 06-26-2007, 08:58 PM
 
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Yup and yup. I also read WF and did not find it any better. I've personally gone by smell, look, and taste a lot. But not sure that matters for botulism, in fact I'm sure it doesn't.
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Old 06-26-2007, 09:05 PM
 
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Here's a really interesting look at that (it's from the blog of a woman who works in a hospital in Alaska): http://tundramedicinedreams.blogspot...-botulism.html
Very interesting!!!! That proves that sometimes old ways prevail over newer ones.
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Old 06-26-2007, 10:40 PM
 
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The botulism microbe itself is killed by normal cooking. It's spores are not. The spores are destroyed at extremely high temperatures, which is why low-acid foods are canned under pressure. High acid environments will kill botulism, which is why high-acid foods can be canned at boiling temperatures. A reasonably healthy adult gut (and I mean almost any adult gut, sparing something really extreme) can handle the tiny rate of blooming from spores.

However, if a foodstuff is highly contaminated with botulism, it doesn't matter if you cook it. The botulism has already fed, reproduced, done it's thing, and in the process of doing it's thing has produced botulism toxin which is not destroyed by cooking. So you won't get any live botulism organisms, but you will get it's toxic waste product.

My thought with home fermenting is, yes, the lactic acid will kill the botulism. But! It takes time to develop that lactic acid. I don't know how long it takes to acidify the solution on average. Meanwhile, the botulism could be proliferating. Yes, the microbes themselves will eventually be destroyed. But until they are, they're spurting out their botox into your brew. My kombucha seems to start turning acidic pretty darned quickly, so I'm less worried about that one. But it seems like l/f veggies take a bit longer.

I'm still not terribly concerned. We're not fermenting in an especially anaerobic environment. People have been fermenting for millennia without widespread death from botulism. Also, those of us who've been eating low on the processed food scale are likely to have guts more capable of handling contamination than those who are used to eating everything pasteurized within in inch of it's life.
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