Saturday, October 1, 2011

Identifying and Handling Spoiled Canned Food

How many of you have wondered what spoiled canned food looks like and how to take care of it? Our mothers have all told us to look for bulging cans or lids that have popped off, but did you know that you may be dealing with very hazardous substances? The best thing is to always err on the side of caution. No one wants to have the worst of the worst to deal with, but it is best to know what to look for and how to dispose of it properly is you ever encounter powerful toxins. This can occur whether it is store bought foods or home canned.

A few years ago, I was rearranging my storage room. I could smell an awful odor, but couldn't see where it was coming from. I climbed up on a ladder, and proceeded to clear off the shelf. YUCK! An exploded can of juice. I don't remember the brand or the flavor, but it was a fermented thick mess stuck to many boxes and cans.  ARRRGH! I had to spend the afternoon, not just moving and rearranging like I had planned, but not disinfecting everything on the shelf. It took hours. I was extremely miffed.  I had never experienced that pleasure before.  So, now I check bottles and cans often. I keep a step-ladder in the room, and look at the shelves weekly. I really don't want to go through that again.

Now, I'd like to speak about home canning. The home canners I know teach and stress extreme food safety! When I'm working on canning I make sure I lay down a sheet of plastic on the table to make sure every thing is contained at that location. If something falls to the floor, it cannot be touched until the entire canning session is complete. No hands, utensils, or other objects are allowed to touch anything not on the plastic covered table. Hands and Arms must be scrubbed clean. Aprons and clothing must have just been laundered.  

Before I store my home bottled jars on the shelves or boxes I wash each bottle of peaches, chili, or whatever it may be in soapy water. Then I let them let on a table for 1 weeks to make sure they have sealed well before I store them without bands.

Whether it is factory or home manufactured it is important to know how to identifying and handle spoiled canned food.  Do not taste food from a jar with an unsealed lid or food that shows signs of spoilage. You can more easily detect some types of spoilage in jars stored without screw bands. Growth of spoilage bacteria and yeast produces gas which pressurizes the food, swells lids, and breaks jar seals. As each stored jar is selected for use, examine its lid for tightness and vacuum. Lids with concave centers have good seals. 

Next, while holding the jar upright at eye level, rotate the jar and examine its outside surface for streaks of dried food originating at the top of the jar. Look at the contents for rising air bubbles and unnatural color. While opening the jar, smell for unnatural odors and look for spurting liquid and cotton-like mold growth (white, blue, black, or green) on the top food surface and underside of lid. 

Spoiled low-acid foods, including tomatoes, may exhibit different kinds of spoilage evidence or very little evidence. Therefore, all suspect containers of spoiled low-acid foods, including tomatoes, should be treated as having produced botulinum toxin and handled carefully in one of two ways: 

If the swollen metal cans or suspect glass jars are still sealed, place them in a heavy garbage bag. Close and place the bag in a regular trash container or dispose in a nearby landfill. 

If the suspect cans or glass jars are unsealed, open, or leaking, they should be detoxified before disposal. 

Detoxification process: 
  • Wear disposable rubber or heavy plastic gloves. 
  • Carefully place the suspect containers and lids on their sides in an 8 quart volume or larger stock pot, pan, or boiling-water canner. 
  • Wash your hands with gloves thoroughly. 
  • Carefully add water to the pot and avoid splashing the water. The water should completely cover the containers with a minimum of a 1-inch level above the containers. 
  • Place a lid on the pot and heat the water to boiling. Boil 30 minutes to ensure detoxifying the food and all container components. 
  • Cool and discard the containers, their lids, and food in the trash or dispose in a nearby landfill.  

Cleaning up the area

  • Contact with botulinum toxin can be fatal whether it is ingested or enters through the skin. Take care to avoid contact with suspect foods or liquids. 
  • Wear rubber or heavy plastic gloves when handling suspect foods or cleaning up contaminated work surfaces and equipment. 
  • A fresh solution of 1 part unscented liquid household chlorine bleach (5 to 6% sodium hypochlorite) to 5 parts clean water should be used to treat work surfaces, equipment, or other items, including can openers and clothing, that may have come in contact with suspect foods or liquids. 
  • Spray or wet contaminated surfaces with the bleach solution and let stand for 30 minutes. 
  • Wearing gloves, wipe up treated spills with paper towels being careful to minimize the spread of contamination. Dispose of these paper towels by placing them in a plastic bag before putting them in the trash. 
  • Next, apply the bleach solution to all surfaces and equipment again, and let stand for 30 minutes and rinse. 
  • As a last step, thoroughly wash all detoxified counters, containers, equipment, clothing, etc. 
  • Discard gloves when cleaning process is complete. (Note: Bleach is an irritant itself and should not be inhaled or allowed to come in contact with the skin.)

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