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Poison Center Helpline 1-800-222-1222


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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Poison Center HelplineCalls are free and confidential.

  1. In Case of Emergency

    Call 911 if someone is unconscious or is having difficulty breathing.

  2. Remain Calm

    Most poison emergencies can be resolved quickly over the phone.

  3. Call the Helpline

    Call 1-800-222-1222 if you are concerned that you or someone else has been exposed to a potentially harmful substance.