Garlic Botulism: Understanding the Risks and Prevention

Learn how to prevent botulism in garlic. Discover safe storage methods and symptoms to watch for. Keep your garlic dishes delicious and safe!


6/21/20242 min read

brown and yellow food in stainless steel cooking pot
brown and yellow food in stainless steel cooking pot

In recent years, concerns about garlic botulism have surfaced, prompting questions about its safety. This article delves into the topic of garlic botulism, exploring its potential risks and how to prevent it. Understanding the nature of this foodborne illness is crucial for ensuring food safety practices in the kitchen. Let's delve into the details to shed light on this important issue and learn how to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the dangers of garlic botulism.

What is Botulism?

Botulism is a serious illness caused by a toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. This toxin attacks the body's nerves, leading to symptoms such as muscle weakness, paralysis, and even respiratory failure. Botulism can be life-threatening if not promptly treated. It can occur through ingestion of contaminated food, inhalation of the bacteria's spores, or through wounds. While rare, botulism requires immediate medical attention and supportive care. Understanding the risks associated with botulism is essential for practicing food safety and preventing its occurrence.

But don’t panic – this sounds scary, but preventing botulism in garlic is pretty simple!

How to Prevent Botulism in Garlic

At Garlic Infused Living, we're passionate about all things garlic, and that includes ensuring your safety when preserving this flavorful ingredient. When it comes to botulism prevention, handling and storage are key. Especially when infusing garlic in oil, like with confit garlic, meticulous care is crucial.

Following USDA guidelines, freshly prepared garlic in oil should be refrigerated at 40°F or below for no more than 7 days. Alternatively, freezing is an option for longer storage. Properly labeled and dated containers help you keep track, ensuring your preserved garlic remains safe and delicious for future use. You can freeze garlic in oil using an ice cube tray, then move it to labeled freezer bags for easy use!

Botulism Symptoms

When properly storing your garlic, botulism is super rare. The symptoms of botulism include:

  • Blurred or double vision

  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking

  • Muscle weakness, including drooping eyelids

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps

If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.


How to tell if garlic has botulism?

Botulism typically comes from garlic stored in oil at room temperature, or in the fridge for over 7 days. If the garlic has a strange smell, the jar or bag has swollen, or there’s leakage, throw your garlic away. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

How to make garlic oil without botulism?

To make garlic oil safely, use fresh garlic, store it in the refrigerator for short periods, or freeze it. Alternatively, make small batches and consume them within a week.

How does garlic cause botulism?

Botulism is caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which can grow in improperly stored garlic. When garlic is stored in oil at room temperature, it creates an anaerobic environment ideal for the bacteria to produce toxins.

How to prevent botulism in garlic?

Prevent botulism by storing garlic in the refrigerator or freezer, using it fresh, or properly preserving it in acidic conditions. If making garlic-infused oil, refrigerate it and consume it within a week, or freeze it for longer storage.