Scientists explore possibility of botulism in bread and buns

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Clostridium botulinum

Scientists at Campden BRI have met a group of 12 food manufacturers, retailers and others to scope out a project exploring whether Clostridium...

Scientists at Campden BRI have met a group of 12 food manufacturers, retailers and others to scope out a project exploring whether Clostridium botulinum could grow in baked goods.
There have been no recorded cases of botulism a rare but potentially fatal illness caused by the bacterium clostridium botulinum from consumption of bread or cakes. That is according to Dr Phil Voysey, who is leading the project.
However, it is theoretically possible that the bacterium could grow in products such as naan breads in modified atmosphere packaging (anaerobic conditions) or even standard crumpets, sliced bread or muffins (in aerobic conditions), he said. "Although regarded as an anaerobic bacterium, some publications show that clostridium botulinum spores can germinate and grow under conditions where oxygen is present.
"Theoretically, it could come from the herbs used in products such as naan bread, or even flour; if wheat is blown flat on the ground and mixes with water and soil, it could get contaminated with clostridium botulinum."
In reality, the risk was likely to be minimal, he said: "I'm really looking to prove a negative, as some retailers have been asking manufacturers questions about this. They want to see what the risks are, as botulism is very serious."
Baking would not kill the bacterium, he said. "To reduce the population of spores of the proteolytic form of the bacterium, which grows at ambient temperatures, you need to heat them for three minutes at more than 120°C, so baking is not going to do the job."
Botulism cases are extremely rare in the UK, he added. "You see more cases in the US where people do more home canning of peas and beans and things, but there was a big outbreak in the late 1980s in the UK from hazelnut yogurt."

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