Food Safety and Environmental Services

Safe Food Handling in Your Home

For tips on food handling and preparation in your home, go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). FSIS is responsible for ensuring that the Nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and processed egg products is safe, whole­some, and correctly labeled and packaged.  FSIS focuses on inspecting and protecting the U.S. food supply and educating consumers about safe food handling and reducing the risks of foodborne illness.

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Home Canning Food Safety Tips

Home canning can be a great way to preserve food but only when done properly. Be sure to follow these safety tips to avoid risky, or even deadly, home canned food products.

  • Use proper canning techniques. Do not use outdated publications or cookbooks when following canning directions and/or recipes.
  • Use the proper equipment for the type of food you are canning and always use a pressure canner or cooker. Do not use boiling water canners because they will not protect against botulism poisoning.
  • Make sure the gauge of the pressure canner or cooker is accurate.
  • Use the process times and pressures for the type of food you are canning, the size of jar being used, and the method used for packing food in the jar.

Following these safety tips will reduce the risk for botulism, which is a rare but very serious illness caused by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Clostridium botulinum can survive in the canned food and produce a toxin that can affect your nerves, cause paralysis, and even death. Ingesting even a small amount of contaminated food can be deadly. Seek medical attention immediately if you suspect you may have botulism poisoning.

The symptoms of botulism poisoning may include:

  • Double Vision
  • Blurred Vision
  • Drooping Eyelids
  • Slurred Speech
  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • Dry Mouth
  • Muscle Weakness

Follow these recommendations to protect against the risks of botulism:

  • Do not consume canned food if:
    • The container is leaking, bulging, or swollen;
    • The container looks damaged, cracked, or abnormal;
    • The container spurts liquid or foam when opened; or
    • The food is discolored, moldy, or has a bad odor.
  • Throw away any canned food product that you suspect may be contaminated with bacteria.
  • Do not taste canned food to determine its safety.
  • Do not open or puncture any canned food product that you suspect may be contaminated.
  • When in doubt, throw it out!

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Resources