The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

Local News

August 19, 2013

Why Grandma didn’t always know best

It’s canning season, so as I become more familiar to people as their WVU Extension agent, they ask me more questions about home canning.

Unfortunately, one of the most unpleasant aspects of my job is telling people that what they learned from their mothers and grandmothers are often not safe canning practices. In some cases, grandmother didn’t know best. There were no fancy labs to test for things like botulism in Grandma’s day.

Of course we have learned many valuable lessons from our mothers and grandmothers. They are to be revered and respected. But that doesn’t mean we should continue to do everything the same way they did. For example, most of us would never give a baby brandy to ease teething pain, or worry about going outside with wet hair for fear of getting a cold, nor would we drink castor oil because we now know it will cause more stomach upset than it will solve. But these are all things our grandmothers shared.

Why are modern canning practices important?

Botulism! The most likely risk of unsafe canning practices is the growth of botulism. The bacterium that creates botulism comes from the ground and is found on many fresh foods. Since the toxin develops in the absence of air, the bacteria in fresh food is harmless. However, this bacterium thrives in environments that have very little air, such as home-canned foods.]

While botulism is rare, the consequences are severe. Any form of botulism is considered a life-threatening condition. Symptoms begin in 18-36 hours. If there’s any fear that you’ve contracted botulism seek medical care immediately; this will greatly increase your chances of survival.

So I ask you, despite the fact that you’ve always done it this way, are you sure you’re willing to risk it? Or risk those you love? Can you be sure?

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