Photo courtesy Vancouver Coastal Health
Vancouver Coastal Health has issued the following warning: “Betty's King Sauce is considered unsafe because of the potential to grow Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Sales have been online from various social media accounts (Instagram, Facebook) and through a public website dating back to 2014. Customers are being advised to discard the product.”
The warning continues: “Inspectors discovered that the product is being produced in a person's home in Richmond, which is not an approved and inspected facility, and the ingredients and processing method could allow for the growth of the harmful bacteria. The processor has been advised to cease production. No illnesses have been linked to the product at this time. It is unknown whether the person makes any other food products.”
The bacteria that causes botulism poisoning, Clostridium botulinum, is everywhere. Eating the actual bacteria won’t hurt healthy adults. The strong acid in their stomach keeps it from growing. But, just as yeast produced alcohol when it grows, when the bacteria grows where there is little acid and no air, such as in some home canned foods, it produces a highly toxic nerve poison. A few billionths of a gram can kill a human. It is estimated one gram of botulism toxin could kill a million people.
The bacteria that makes the botulism poison is hardy. That is why low-acid foods must be pressured canned at a specific heat, pressure and time to ensure it will stay safe to eat. Even in the old days of the multiple salmon canneries in Steveston, the fish was pressured canned to ensure its safety.
The other people who have to be careful of botulism poisoning are babies. Their stomachs have such weak acid that the bacteria, normally killed by strong stomach acid, can actually grow inside them, producing the poison. For that reason, children under one year of age are not to be given honey or corn syrup as it may contain the Clostridium botulinum spores.
While the symptoms of botulism poisoning may at first seem like ordinary food poisoning, the toxin can cause tingling of the lips, double vision and drooping eye lids.
Vancouver Coastal Health says, “Clostridium botulinum toxin in food or beverages can cause foodborne botulism, which is an extremely rare but potentially life-threatening bacterial illness. Food contaminated with the toxin may not look or smell spoiled, but when ingested can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dry throat, respiratory failure or paralysis. Most people with botulism develop symptoms 12 to 36 hours after consuming contaminated food.”
Further information is available on the BC Centre for Disease Control website.