Viruses, Bacteria, Protists, and Fungi

How dangerous is Clostridium botulinum?

The bacterium Clostridium botulinum can grow in food products and produce a toxin called botulinum, the most toxic substance known. Microbiologists estimate that one gram of this toxin can kill 14 million adults! This bacterium can withstand boiling water (212°F or [100°C]) but is killed in five minutes in 248°F (120°C). This tolerance makes Clostridium botulinum a serious concern for people who can vegetables at home. If home canning is not done properly, this bacterium will grow in the anaerobic conditions of the sealed container and create extremely poisonous food. The endospores of Clostridium botulinum can germinate in poorly prepared canned goods, so individuals should never eat food from a can that appears swollen, as it is a sign that the can has become filled with gas released during germination. Consuming food from a can containing endospores that have undergone germination can lead to nerve paralysis, severe vomiting, and even death.


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