Potential Danger of Garlic in Oil
Answered by: Yvonne Tremblay
Question from: Teresa
Posted on: September 9, 2003

Could you please tell me if I can put sun-dried tomatoes and roasted garlic in corn oil. Some one told me that it could make you sick if you put the garlic in.

I am recommending that you DO NOT use the garlic, roasted or not. Please read the information that follows.

Fresh garlic in oil presents a probable environment for the production of clostridium botulinum toxins (botulism).

This from Health Canada:

"Garlic-in-oil is a mixture of vegetable oil and garlic, either whole, chopped or minced. When you make it at home and use it right away it’s a safe product. It’s also safe if you keep it refrigerated on a continuous basis, and use within a week. The trouble starts if you store homemade garlic-in-oil at room temperature or if you keep it in the fridge for too long. These actions could result in contamination of the product by the bacterial spores that cause botulism. You can slow the growth of the bacteria (and the production of toxins) by refrigerating the product, but this may not be enough to stop it from spoiling. There won’t be any signs that the garlic-in-oil has spoiled. You won’t be able to tell if it’s dangerous, because it will still look, smell and taste the same."

This from FoodSafe News (Hospitality North, Prince George. British Columbia):

"So to your question about ‘roasted garlic’, the answer is in the handling and cooking or the same. Let’s assume that cooking the garlic kill the bacteria. This leaves the question open how was the garlic handled. Foodhandlers hands, utensils, plates, bowls, peeler, garlic cloth, etc. all could have been contaminated with the ‘harmless’ botulism bacteria and maybe also some ‘dormant’ botulism spores. What happens next after the garlic is prepared (handled, peeled and cooked) is important. Did other foods come in contact with the contaminated food handlers hands, utensils, plates, bowls, peeler, garlic cloth, etc. Next was the cooking of the garlic or any foods which came in contact with the contaminated Foodhandlers hands, utensils, plates, bowls, peeler, garlic cloth, etc. done in an anaerobic environment."

"A definite answer is difficult to form unless all conditions and circumstances are known. Facts of proper food handling are elementary: keep it clean (wash hands, utensils and food thoroughly), keep food properly cold or hot, cook food properly and avoid cross contamination. With botulism the added caution is the formation of spores and their germination and bacterial growth in an anaerobic environment. In days gone by the emphasize was on homecanning, in particular low-acid foods; today the taste trend of eating garlic in many different forms (raw, part of dishes, lunch meats, spreads, etc.) has caused severe concern with Health authorities. Last not least vacuum-packed foods, such as lunch meats, etc., with or without garlic, add to the increase in botulism cases worldwide. Remember, Clostridium botulinum is widely found in nature, soil, water, plant material and many fish and animals."

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