Food Safety Issues/Botulism on produce


This is a crazy question but I keep wondering--why don't the areas where fresh produce is laying on container surfaces or where stacked produce is touching each other create tiny anaerobic places where botulism can become dangerous in room/moderate temperatures?
Is it because the spoilage bacteria are able to keep it under control?
Then--what is going on after the produce is cooked--are areas where it touches the other cooked pieces or the plate creating anaerobic places so that, for example, even an unwrapped baked potato that is left out in room temperature too long becomes a botulism hazard because of these little areas?
Thank you for any attempt to help me understand--perhaps I need a food microbiology for dummies course!

Wow what a great question. I don't get many questions showing so much insight. As far as botulism goes you are correct that botulism needs an anaerobic environment without competition from other bacteria to thrive. Spoilage organisms which are normally present just about everywhere do keep botulism from colonizing and causing outbreaks. Botulism occurs naturally in soils but the concentration is too low to become a problem unless conditions exist that allow it to reproduce at a high rate. This is why botulism is associated with can foods that were not cooked at a high enough temperature. Botulism also likes low acid foods so you can get away with canning tomatoes in a hot water bath rather than under pressure like what is done in commercial canning. Botulism isn't going to be a problem in field operations because of competing microorganisms and the low concentration of botulism. As far as potatoes it's generally wrapped baked potatoes that have cause botulism issues. If they are left out unrefrigerated after cooking they have been showed to be the cause of botulism outbreaks. Likely that the wrap is sealing out the oxygen enough for botulism to grow. Any cooked vegetables are potentially hazardous as the cooking kills other competing microorganisms leaving the cooked vegetable virgin territory for colonization by the first microorganism that gets to it. Hopefully this is non pathogenic. Since botulism is anaerobic botulism usually can't contaminate surfaces exposed to air. I tried to remain clean with my answer. I hope I answered your great question in a way you can understand.  

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Carl LaFrate


I can answer food safety questions relative to food processing, retail food and food salvage after a catastrophic event such as a hurricane, flood, ammonia leak or fire. Questions related to HACCP, Regulatory, GFSI, SQF, BRC, liability issues, contamination events, pest infestation, pest control methodology,food safety defense, pathogen prevention such as L. Monocytogenes control in food processing and retail, any subject related to food safety including at home issues.


30 years experience as a food safety consultant working for the top food processors, food retailers and insurance companies that write liability policies related to food processing, storage and distribution. My firm employees 6 full time food safety auditors. I work for top law firms throughout the USA and am a staff consultant for Douglas Peterson and Associates, one of the top forensic engineering firms in the world. I also work with Risk Solutions International, a global leader in risk management.

New York State Association for Food Protection, past president, executive board Central Atlantic States Association of Food and Drug Officials

Progressive Grocer Magazine Smart Money Magazine Private Label Buyer Magazine Supermarket News Natural Foods Merchandiser Magazine Food Service Director Magazine NYS Association for Food Protection Annual Report NYS Association for Food Protection Newsletter

Syracuse University, Microbiology/Biology NYS College of Environmental Sciences, Plant and Environmental Biology Cornell University, Food and Dairy Processing

Awards and Honors
Wm. Hickey Award (2006), NYS Association for Food Protection, for contributions in the field of food safety and sanitation New York State Integrated Pest Management Award (2007), NYS Assoc. for Food Protection, for contributions in the filed of integrated pest management.

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Pillsbury, Agri-Mark, Associated Grocers, Beatrice Foods, Cargill, Southern Cold Storage, Quaker, Ben & Jerry’s, Delverde Pasta (Italy), New York Bakery, Cabot Cheese, Hazelwood Farms, General Mills, Price Chopper Supermarkets, P&C Supermarkets, Great American Supermarkets, Tops Markets, Big M Supermarkets, Big Bear Supermarkets, Frito-Lay Distribution Centers, IBP, Excell, Eckerd Drugs, Rite Aid Drug Stores, Fay’s Drugs, Carl’s Drugs, AWI Wholesale Food Distribution, McLane Food Distributors, Golub Food Distribution, many supermarket chains (many include large scale specialty food service operations), Burger King, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Darden Foods (Red Lobster, Olive Garden), LSG Skychefs (Germany, US), Glen Mills Schools, Cornell University, Crider Poultry, Caesar’s Palace, The Oneida Indian Nation, Taylor Meat Packing, UCB Packaging Films

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