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Blood or body fluids contamination in home preservation

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  • Blood or body fluids contamination in home preservation

    Q: We were pressure canning carrots in a class. One of the class members cut their finger and it started to bleed while slicing the carrots before putting them in the jar. She did not do anything about it but kept on cutting up carrots and putting them in the jar. Nobody said anything until the carrots were processing in the pressure canner. Am I right in assuming that we should dispose of the canned carrots? Should we also dispose of the jars?

    A: Basically on a commercial level this would be considered adulterated food. Adulterated food is any that is considered unfit for consumption. The presence of soils, filth, spoilage or bodily fluids is considered in this definition. On the home food preservation level or for consumers its just "YUK".

    On the food safety level there are generally only three viruses that might be a concern for blood transmission where the person it came from was not feeling ill. This includes the HIV (AIDS) virus and two Hepatitis viruses. NONE have ever been known to transmit this way and make anyone ill. The CDC does not consider this a route for HIV transmission. The two Hepatitis viruses are a little more stable in foods. For all three viruses there is a big question of whether the pressure canning process would destroy them. Current evidence suggest that they will NOT survive a canning process, but a definitive study has not been done.

    The correct food safety practice would have been to clean up and tend to the wound first. Then place a band aid on the wound and cover the whole thing with a latex glove before returning to handling food. Discard all food that had come into contact with any bodily fluids. Clean the area with warm soapy water. Sanitize using household bleach 1 tsp diluted in 1 gallon water. Allow the bleach sanitizer to air dry. Return to processing foods. If there was any concern that other foods may have been contaminated, wash them well and then immerse them in a mild bleach solution (1 tsp bleach in 1 gallon water) for 5-10 minutes. Rinse in clean water and continue processing. Note that some foods may not be washed and sanitized in this manner (meats, liquids, etc).
    Dr. Brian Nummer, PhD
    USU Extension Food Safety Specialist