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Food Safety Risks for Homemade and Home-Canned Goods

By Keith Stachowiak on June 28, 2016 // Leave a Comment
home-canned-goods-adviceAt this time of year, it is easy to find farmers' markets, road-side stands and local shops that sell a number of uniquely Wisconsin items and homemade recipes.

But it is important to balance the desire to try new things with the risk of food safety. Here are some things our team of Milwaukee personal injury lawyers suggest you should consider as you venture out this summer and try home-grown and home-made food options in your local community.

The Safety Of Home Canned Goods

According to an article on foodsafety.gov “[t]he bacteria that cause botulism, Clostridium botulinum, are found in soil.” The only protection against botulism in home canning is the heat applied during canning. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends using a pressure cooker for canning.

Some things to look out for in home-canned goods:

  •          Does it pass the “sniff” test? Smell for unusual odors.
  •          Clarity of liquid, no foam.
  •          No discoloration of the food or the liquid.
  •          Seal is in tact.

Although the above tips will help in detecting spoiled food, you cannot always tell whether canned foods have botulism by looking at them. The best way to avoid botulism is to use a pressure canner.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists resources for in-depth, step-by-step directions for home canning. The CDC also warns that home-canned vegetables are the most common cause of botulism outbreaks in the United States. Botulism is, however, quite rare. From 1996 to 2008, there were 116 outbreaks reported to the CDC.

Another resource to learn more about food safety is the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Wisconsin Laws For Home Canned And Homemade Goods

In Wisconsin, Wis. Stat. § 97.29 provides that a person is not required to obtain a license to sell home-canned foods if:

  • The food products are pickled.
  • The sale is at a social event or farmers’ market.
  • The person receives less than $5,000 per year from the sale.
  • The person displays a sign at the place of sale stating “These canned goods are homemade and not subject to state inspection”.
  • Each container is labeled with the name and address of the person who prepared and canned the food, the date on which it was canned, and the statement “This product was made in a private home not subject to state licensing or inspection”.
  • The prodcut contains a list of ingredients using common names.

If the above requirements do not apply, then the person selling the food must have a license to do so. The University of Wisconsin has issued a publication setting forth some guidelines for home canners in Wisconsin. 

What Happens If You Get Sick From Homemade Goods?

what-if-you-get-sick-from-homemade-goods-milwaukee-personal-injury-law-firm.jpgIt may be difficult to bring a lawsuit against an individual seller for illness from home-canned goods. In Samson v. Riesing, 62 Wis.2d 698, 215 N.W.2d 662 (1974), a woman attended a luncheon put on by a group of mothers organized to support the high school band, the Wauwatosa Band Mothers Association. The woman ate some food that was prepared by the Band Mothers and contaminated with salmonella. The court held that the Band Mothers were not within the purview of the statute prohibiting the sale of contaminated food, and that the statute applied only to the food industry. Accordingly, the Band Mothers could not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injury.

So if you are a home-made seller or buyer, there are certainly things you should consider. Whether it is properly labeling your homemade prodcuts or how to test for contaimination, we hope you found this resource of information helpful.

Do you have any questions? Please let us know in the comments!

At Murphy & Prachthauser we are Milwaukee personal injury lawyers who practice personal injury law the way it should be practiced – motivated and equipped to do our best for you. We take pride in being good lawyers who help people.

If you have a case you would like to speak to a lawyer about, please contact us to schedule a free consultation and get an experienced team of lawyers working on your behalf. 

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