EUGENE, Ore. –Throw Grandma's old canning recipes away if you want to avoid food-borne illnesses, say Oregon State University food safety experts. In fact, any pre-1988 canning or food preservation recipes are considered unsafe, they point out.
If you are going to preserve your own foods this summer it is important to use up-to-date food preservation methods and processing times. The OSU Food Preservation/Safety hotline opens July 16 and continues through Oct. 12, operating Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (except holidays). OSU faculty and trained volunteers will staff the hotline, which is 1-800-354-7319.
"Food preservation is a science, and it is always changing to assure safety with new varieties of produce, new strains of microorganisms and new products emerging on the market," explained Carolyn Raab, family and community development faculty with the OSU Extension Service.
"If this is the first time you are preserving foods or if you haven't done it for a while, be sure to use up-to-date reliable instructions," advised Nellie Oehler, also with OSU Extension.
Some processing time recommendations have increased. Also, "open-kettle" canning – where food, jars, and lids are all hot and food is not processed – and oven canning are no longer considered safe. Some ingredients have changed and additional bacteria are causing concern in foods that aren't preserved.
"Just because the food is in a jar and the jar seals it, does not mean that it is safe," said Oehler. "This actually could make the product lethal."
If low-acid foods (meats, fish, vegetables, poultry) aren't processed properly, Clostridium botulinum bacteria can grow in the sealed jar and produce a deadly toxin. Recent cases of botulism have been linked with under-processed soup and stew in Oregon.
Volunteers and staff in the Lane County office of the OSU Extension Service in Eugene have been operating a statewide Food Safety/Preservation hotline for several years. They receive calls from people who are still using outdated canning books, says Oehler.
"There are a lot of old canning books on kitchen and library shelves, where they will continue to pose a threat to health," she said. Food safety experts with the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend the use of references with copyright dates after 1988.
The hotline staff can answer questions about:
- Safe canning methods for fruits, vegetables, meats, fish and poultry;
- Freezing foods safely;
- Food drying and using dried foods, including making fruit leathers;
- Pickling concerns and tested recipes;
- Jam and jelly problems and tips;
- Emergency food and water storage;
- How much produce to buy and the varieties good for preserving;
- Food safety concerns.
Each of the volunteers staffing the hotline has completed a 40-hour course in food preservation and safety and has passed a certification exam. For more information visit the OSU Extension Service's Lane County office website: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/food-preservation. The website has extensive information about food preservation topics, seasonal food safety tips, an "ask an expert" feature and links to food preservation publications.