Canadians Reminded Of Safety Concerns In Home Canning, Bottling Of Fish

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency would like to remind Canadians of the importance of food safety while home canning or home bottling fish and other seafood.

Home canning and bottling of fish and other seafood is a popular activity for Canadians, especially in Atlantic Canada. However, improper preparation, canning or storage of these foods can cause serious illness, such as botulism.

If you are home canning or bottling your own low-acid foods (including clams, lobster and whelks), the following steps will help to reduce the risk of contamination or the presence of C. botulinum:

* Use a pressure canner and strictly follow the manufacturer's instructions for canning or bottling foods considered to be low-acid, such as fish and other shellfish.

* Clean and sanitize your hands, all work surfaces, food, utensils, and equipment and keep them clean during all stages of the canning process.


* Do not substitute ingredients, amounts or the jar size that is in the recipe because this can cause the time or pressure needed during pressure canning to change. This can lead to bacteria remaining in the food. Use the final product within one year.

* Once the container has been opened, refrigerate leftovers immediately.

* If you are buying home canned products, ask the vendor if they have followed proper safety steps.

Always remember, never eat canned foods if you suspect the item has been tampered with, if the closure/seal has been broken, or if the container is swollen or leaking. If in doubt, throw it out!

Botulism is a serious illness that can result from eating improperly prepared canned or heat-processed bottled foods. Botulism is caused by bacteria that naturally produce toxins as part of their normal life cycle. The toxin that causes botulism is colourless, odourless, tasteless and invisible to the naked eye and is not necessarily destroyed by cooking, so preventing the toxin from forming is essential.

Symptoms of botulism food poisoning can range from nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, headache, double vision, dryness in the throat and nose to respiratory failure, paralysis and, in some cases, death. The onset of symptoms is generally from 12 to 36 hours after ingesting the toxin. The duration of illness may be 2 hours to 14 days, although some symptoms may linger much longer.

It is estimated that there are approximately 11 million cases of food-related illnesses in Canada every year. Many of these illnesses could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.