Food Safety Issues/Botulism Toxin


Hi, I recently opened up a commercially canned can of chile peppers, and it spurted all over my counter top and wooden chopping board. I discarded the can and I cleaned my counter and chopping board with a bleach solution, and I also soaked the can opener in bleach. My question is, is my kitchen still a danger zone? I am only about 99 percent sure that I bleached every surface that might have been contaminated. I did not do the floor and I worry that toxin might have soaked into the wood chopping board that wasn't reached by the bleach.

My question is, how long does the toxin remain viable n the environment before it starts to break down? If I hold off using my chopping board for a week am I safe or should I just throw the thing away? I can find a lot of info about how to avoid ingesting botulism toxin but not much about how long it remains a risk once it's in the environment.

Thanks in advance.

If the chili peppers were commercially canned there is almost a zero risk that the can contained botulism toxin. Commercial canning eliminates this risk. My opinion is that there was a very small hole in the can or seam after it was processed. This allowed bacteria associated with spoilage to enter the can. This bacteria reproduced and gave off gases as a byproduct. The hole sealed itself when a solid particle inside the can became lodged in the hole. Enough solid particles stuck around the hole to seal the can. When you opened the can gasses escaped. Botulism will not remain on surfaces very long before other naturally occurring bacteria in the area take over. Therefore your risk of contaminating surfaces with botulism to the extent that it could make you ill are very very low. It was prudent of you to bleach the surfaces. You don't need to throw anything away.  

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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.

Past/Present Clients
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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