Fermentation and Botulism: Some basic science

Exploding sauerkraut brings in Hazmat team

Twenty-four students and four staff members at Kelly Road Secondary School were put into quarantine Friday afternoon after a can of the preserved cabbage exploded in a food sciences class.

Teachers didn’t know what was inside the can when it blew up, and called the local fire department and police to prevent an outbreak of botulism, a potentially fatal disease caused by bacteria sometimes found in canned food.

Investigators were soon able to identify the substance as the popular German sausage topping, which had been left to ferment for years.

Via BoingBoing, where Mark Frauenfelder …

… was disappointed that the news story failed to mention that “the popular German sausage topping” is never associated with botulism. It’s too sour. Botulism can’t survive in an environment where the pH is 4.6 or less. Sauerkraut is about 10 more acidic than that.

For the same reason you do not have to worry about botulism when drinking home brewed beer.

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