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A Lesson in Botulism

Well. That could have been very, very bad.

I had planned to make a fabulous dinner of homemade spaghetti and meatballs and, of course, take pics and write up a blog about it. Did not go as planned.

I made the meatballs first and had them all set out just waiting to get pan fried. They were so pretty! The next step was to make the sauce. I had one can of whole peeled tomatoes already in the pantry and had bought one today at the store. You have to puree the tomatoes and then put them in a large saucepot with onions and seasonings, etc. My food processor isn’t big enough to handle two cans so I opened the one I had bought at the store first. Everything went smoothly and into the pot it went. When I got to the can that had been in my pantry, I noticed the top of the can was puffed up. Some of you may already know where this is going. As I started opening the can, it literally exploded! Tomato juice spurted everywhere! It was on the cabinets, floors, countertop and me. I actually giggled thinking it was great fun that I showered my kitchen in tomato juice. I went ahead and pureed the tomatoes (which smelled and looked just fine) and put them in the pot with the rest.

It had been simmering for about 20 minutes when I went in to tell Ben about what I called “The Great Tomato Explosion” thinking he would get a kick out of it. He did laugh at first and then, being the genius he is, said, “Isn’t that a sign of botulism?”

Me: Ummmm, I dunno. Is it?
Ben: I think so.
Me: No, I think it’s only cans that are dented.
Ben: Are you sure?
Me: No. Let’s look it up.

And sure enough, I found this passage on the USDA website relating to canned goods:

NEVER USE food from containers that show possible “botulism” warnings: leaking, bulging, or badly dented cans; cracked jars or jars with loose or bulging lids; canned food with a foul odor; or any container that spurts liquid when opening. DON’T TASTE SUCH FOOD! Even a minuscule amount of botulinum toxin can be deadly.” –Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA

I did not add the bold print. That is exactly how it was written. Shit.

Now I’m thinking that I think I may have gotten a little on my lip or maybe even licked some off my finger. But I don’t know. Was that from the first can or the second can? Oh my God, I can’t REMEMBER!!!! And why don’t I know this about puffy cans and botulism?!?!? I should know better, right?!?!

After wrapping up the meatballs for another day, I proceeded to disinfect/wash any item or surface that the death liquid might have touched. My entire pot of beautiful yet now infected sauce went down the drain. We ordered pizza. And I think Ben will remind me of this day for quite some time.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Hello my dear! Not nice to almost kill your future husband. Also, if you'd watched Hoarders on A&E last week you would know all about avoiding "puffy" food. Let this be a lesson to you. Watch all television programs detailing lives WAY to screwed up and intimate to be on television. Embrace your inner voyeur! And don't eat anything puffy. :)

  2. Marty says:

    My poor dear! Now you know why those type cans are at the dollar store.

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