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Before you reach for a can of homemade preserves, ask yourself: Was it prepared properly? If not, it may contain botulinum—the most toxic substance on earth. Botulinum causes botulism, a rare but serious illness that attacks the body’s nerves.

IPC urges you to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you have botulism. Symptoms typically begin between 12-36 hours after consuming the contaminated food.


  • Difficulty breathing, swallowing or speaking
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle weakness
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps
  • Paralysis

Botulinum thrives in environments with low amounts of oxygen, like home-canned food. IPC urges caution when preparing and canning food. Do not eat food from a dented or broken can.

How do you get botulism?

  • Eating improperly prepared home-canned, preserved or fermented foods
  • Eating damaged or leaking canned food
  • Eating improperly stored food

Seek immediate medical attention if you or a loved one have may eaten food containing botulinum.

IPC is here to help. Calls to our helpline, 1-800-222-1222, are free and confidential. Toxicology experts are available to answer your questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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