When it comes to home canned foods, the rule of thumb is “When in doubt, throw it out.” This means that if you have any question as to the safety of your product, you shouldn’t eat it (seriously, not even a single taste). This includes products where the seals have gone bad, that have developed a seriously off-color (a little natural darkening is fine, significant color changes are not) and recipes where you forgot to add the necessary acid.
When you determine that it’s time to trash a batch of jars, there are a few things you should know. If it’s a low acid product (including tomatoes) it needs to be discarded in such a way that there’s no chance that either human nor animal will eat it. This means that it shouldn’t be poured into compost piles, put down the drain or even flushed. If you have a product (remember, only low acid foods can harbor botulism, so this would not be necessary for jams, pickles or fruit sauces) you suspect has been infected with botulism, here are the steps (as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control) you should follow:
- Place jars into two layers of plastic, sealable bags and tape well to close.
- Place bags in a trash can that is well out of reach of people and pets.
- If the jars have been opened, make sure to wear rubber or latex gloves. Avoid any contact with the skin and make sure to wash hands well if contact was inadvertently made.
- Cover any spills entirely with a bleach solution of 1/4 cup bleach per 2 cups of water. Place paper towels over bleach solution and allow it to sit for 15-20 minutes. Wipe up remaining bleach with fresh paper towels. Finally, clean the area with soap and water to remove bleach residue.
- Any towels, rags, sponges, gloves, etc., that came into contact with the contaminates food should be bagged, sealed and tossed as well.