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MU Food Safety Expert Says Nearly 100 Cases of Botulism Occur Annually in U.S.

July 23, 2007

Story Contact:  Bryan Daniels, 573-882-9144,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — A Georgia meat processing plant, Castleberry Food Co., recently recalled thousands of pounds of meat products that federal regulators said were likely undercooked and may potentially cause a botulism outbreak.

Mengshi Lin, assistant professor of food science in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said that botulism is “very dangerous” and that more than 100 cases occur annually in the United States. Botulism is a type of food poisoning that produces paralysis of muscles. It also can be fatal.

Lin said there are seven recognized types (types A-G) of botulism; only four affect humans (types A, B, E, and F) and the others affect mammals, birds and fish. There is an average of five to 10 percent mortality rate for the human botulism, Lin said. Additional testing is necessary to determine which type is associated with this recent situation.

“It's a rare but serious problem,” said Lin, a food safety expert.

He said industry standards require canned food to be cooked at 121 degrees for at least three minutes to kill the bacterial cells and spores of deadly Clostridium botulinum.

Lin has been a MU faculty member since 2006. His research involves the development of novel instrumental techniques to improve food safety and quality. Lin worked as a food inspector and food safety regulator in China for five years before pursuing his doctoral degree in Food Science at Washington State University in 2001.