Clostridium botulinum
Foodborne illnesses

Food Safety


Clostridium botulinum is an anaerobic, gram-positive, spore- forming rod that produces a toxin. The spores are heat resistant and can survive in foods that are incorrectly or minimally processed. Foodborne botulism is a severe type of food poisoning caused by the ingestion of foods containing the potent toxin formed during the growth of the organism.


Onset of symptoms is usually 2 to 36 hours after ingestion of food that contained the toxin, but sometimes appear as few as 2 hours or as long as 8 days after eating. Signs are double vision, droopy eyelids, trouble speaking and swallowing, difficulty breathing and paralysis. It is often fatal.


The organism and its spores are widely distributed in nature. They occur in both cultivated and forest soils, bottom sediments of streams, coastal waters, and in the intestinal tracts of fish and mammal, and in the gills and viscera of crabs and other shellfish.

Mode of Transmission

Bacteria produce a toxin that causes the illness. Clostridium botulinum has been demonstrated in a variety of foods such as canned corn, peppers, green beans, soups, smoked fish, improperly canned foods, garlic in oil, vacuum – packaged and tightly wrapped foods.


  • Use only commercially canned or smoked products
  • Refrigerate olive oil and garlic
  • Discard bulging canned goods
  • Refrigerate foods
  • Rapidly chill in small quantities


FDA’s Bad Bug Book


National Restaurant Association