Foodborne botulism is a potentially fatal paralytic illness caused by ingestion of neurotoxin produced by the spore-forming bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Historically, home-canned vegetables have been the most common cause of botulism outbreaks in the United States. During 2008 and 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local health departments in Ohio and Washington State investigated three outbreaks caused by unsafe home canning of vegetables. We analyzed CDC surveillance data for background on food vehicles that caused botulism outbreaks from 1999 to 2008. For the three outbreaks described, patients and their family members were interviewed and foods were collected. Laboratory testing of clinical and food samples was done at the respective state public health laboratories. From 1999 to 2008, 116 outbreaks of foodborne botulism were reported. Of the 48 outbreaks caused by home-prepared foods from the contiguous United States, 38% (18) were from home-canned vegetables. Three outbreaks of Type A botulism occurred in Ohio and Washington in September 2008, January 2009, and June 2009. Home-canned vegetables (green beans, green bean and carrot blend, and asparagus) served at family meals were confirmed as the source of each outbreak. In each instance, home canners did not follow canning instructions, did not use pressure cookers, ignored signs of food spoilage, and were unaware of the risk of botulism from consuming improperly preserved vegetables. Home-canned vegetables remain a leading cause of foodborne botulism. These outbreaks illustrate critical areas of concern in current home canning and food preparation knowledge and practices. Similar gaps were identified in a 2005 national survey of U.S. adults. Botulism prevention efforts should include targeted educational outreach to home canners.
† The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.