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For safety, ensure your canning recipes are up to date

Media contact: Catherine Dehdashti, U of M Extension,, (612) 625-0237

ST. PAUL, Minn. (7/6/2012) —With the occurrence of three botulism foodborne illness outbreaks in the past two years associated with improperly home-canned green beans, ensuring canning recipes are up to date is essential to ensuring food safety. According to University of Minnesota Extension food safety educator Suzanne Driessen, one key mistake many home food preservers make is that they want to continue to use canning recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.

The low-acid foods commonly chosen for canning such as vegetables, meat, and fish, combined with the air-tight conditions created from the canning process, provide the only environment that Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium that causes botulism, can grow and thrive in. Families must take the necessary precautions when preserving food, in order to prevent serious illnesses.

Canning recommendations have changed dramatically over the past 15 years, and many old family recipes may be outdated and not based on research or the latest science. The most recently revised canning safety standards, in terms of times and methods were released in 1994.

"If you are using canning recipes that date before 1994, then it's critical to set those aside and find an up-to-date recipe that has been tested for safety," said Driessen. "Older recipes could put you and your family at risk for botulism or other illnesses."

Another key mistake many food preservers make is not using credible resources to gather their canning recipes in order to reduce food safety risks.

Although there are many potential sources to gather recipes from on the Internet, they are not all derived from researched-based standards.

When looking for credible sites on the Internet, look for those that reference tested research recipes and methods. Many canning supply companies and University websites provide this reliable information.

Driessen also advises against creating your own canning recipe, because of the potential hazardous implications that may arise as a result. For example, adding extra garlic or onion to pickles could alter the acidity level of your foods, and make them vulnerable to harmful bacteria.

"Food preservation has to be more of a science than an art," said Driessen. "The art part comes after you used the latest science and can proudly display and serve the food you preserved."

For more information regarding food preservation, go to the University of Minnesota Extension website:, where you can also view Driessen's free, 5 minute mini-modules on 20 topics of food preservation.

Source: Suzanne Driessen, food safety educator with University of Minnesota Extension

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