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March Cartoon Calendar Activity: And What Are Your Thoughts on Botulism?

As you can probably guess, our main audience at includes food handlers and managers, restaurant owners and operators, and health department officials: all those who have food safety in the forefront of their minds. Chances are high that you (the one who is reading this article) are one of these people. Today, we’d like to do something a little different with our blog article: we’d like to start a discussion about a somewhat rare but very dangerous foodborne illness called botulism.

Where food safety is concerned, Clostridium botulinum, or “botulism,” is almost a swear word, right? The bacterium that produces dangerous toxins, as you probably already know, is infamous for wreaking havoc on the nervous system and even causing death. Considering the consequences of this foodborne hazard, it’s safe to say that you, as a person who knows about the dangers of foodborne illness, avoid botulism at all costs. But what we here at would like to know is, with regards to botulism, where do you start when it comes to keeping your public safe?


What Do You Know about Botulism?

Like with any war, our first step is to get to know the enemy. So I’ll ask you a few simple questions: What is botulism? Where does it come from? What are the symptoms? And when do you know when to get medical attention?

Next, we should know where botulism is likely to be found. Of course, botulism is notorious for sneaking into Grandma’s canned goods, but would you say it is possible that it can also find its way into food establishments? In an establishment, where would you say botulism is most likely to hide? In what types of foods? In what types of conditions?


How Do You Prevent Botulism?

When it comes to preventing botulism, what practices would you focus your efforts on? Even given the point that botulism is quite rare—there are 145 cases reported each year, 15% of which are foodborne—how important would you say awareness is? And should food handlers learn and practice the measures that will prevent it?

Now, you probably know that as hard as food workers may try, nothing guarantees a 100% perfect way to keep all foodborne illnesses from getting into an establishment. So when food workers come across food that shows all the signs of botulism, what would you recommend they do? And what words of advice would you share about the clean up? Worst case scenario: somebody is showing clear signs of having botulism. What is the appropriate way to proceed?


Have You Had Any Experience with Botulism?

Thinking back through your food safety career, what has been your experience with botulism? Have you ever come in contact with the ill-famed bulging can? And what did you do when you came in contact with it? What does your establishment do to prevent this bacterium from getting into the food you serve? Do you have certain preventative measures set up at your establishment? What are they? If you are an inspector or health department official, how have you taught operators, food handlers, and the public about botulism? How have you communicated the seriousness of the threat?

I hope these questions have sparked some thoughts and ideas from you. Please join us in our discussion on Facebook. We look forward to hearing from you!

As an extra bonus we have provided a few different digital and printable versions of the Cartoon Calendar here for your convenience:

Full Cartoon Calendar
Cartoon with Month
Cartoon with Year

You may order a printed calendar by emailing us at

Aubrey Pontious

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