Most infant botulism cases cannot be prevented because the bacteria that causes the disease is in soil and dust. The bacteria can be found inside homes—on floors, carpets, and countertops—even after cleaning. For almost all children and adults who are healthy, ingesting botulism spores is not dangerous and will not cause botulism—it is the toxin that is dangerous. However, for reasons we do not understand, some infants get botulism when the spores get into their digestive tracts, grow, and produce the toxin.
Honey can contain the bacteria that causes infant botulism, so parents should not feed honey to children younger than 12 months. Honey is safe for people one year of age and older. Learn more about infant botulism.
The types of foods implicated in botulism outbreaks vary according to food preservation and eating habits in different regions. Any food that is conducive to outgrowth and toxin production, that when processed allows spore survival, and that is not subsequently heated before consumption, can be associated with botulism. Almost any type of food that is not very acidic (pH above 4.6) can support growth and toxin production by C. botulinum. Botulinum toxin has been demonstrated in a considerable variety of foods, such as canned corn, peppers, green beans, soups, beets, asparagus, mushrooms, ripe olives, spinach, tuna fish, chicken, chicken livers, and liver pate, luncheon meats, ham, sausage, stuffed eggplant, lobster, and smoked and salted fish.
Botulinum toxin is heat-labile, or unstable if heated to a certain temperature, and can be destroyed if heated and held at 80 degrees Centigrade (176 degrees Fahrenheit) for ten minutes or longer.