I believe it started a couple of years ago, when The Virus Which Must Not Be Named was first being talked about. I thought about doing some canning and preserving, and wondered if it's possible to can meat. And I decided it must be, because you can buy things like chicken and tuna and Spam in a can, and it's perfectly fine to eat. So I think I did a Google search or two and found out about pressure canning.
And then I looked up pressure canners in Australia, and instantly regretted it. Ouch. That's a huge expense for someone who doesn't even know if they want to do it! I wonder if I could borrow one from a friend. Who do I know who might have a pressure canner? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
So I gave up on that idea for a while. And every now and then, I'd think about it again. Because you never know when the power will go out for an extended period of time and freezers will fail. I didn't want to have to cook up a bunch of meat all at once to make sure it didn't spoil, and hope we could get through it before we had to throw it out.
A couple of weeks ago, in Dr. Berry's Patreon group, he posted a link to a YouTube video about canning meat. I think that video mostly talked about doing it in a pressure canner (of course), but in the video they talked about another video where you DON'T need a pressure canner to do it (say, if the power goes out, and you have to cook up a bunch of meat quickly so it doesn't spoil). So instead of watching the original video, I watched that one. And I found one about Amish canning methods, which is water bath for everything, even meat.
So yeah, you could say I question the official guidelines for pressure canning non-acidic foods. I'm not saying you shouldn't, I'm just thinking...I need more information.
I did some research today, and found out a few things, and came up with more questions. First, what I know or found out recently.
1. The Amish use water bath for everything.
2. Before 1980, everyone used water bath for everything.
3. Botulism is fatal in 5-10% of cases.
4. Honey isn't recommended for infants under 12 months because of the risk of botulism. After 12 months, they develop resistance to it.
5. I asked my mom if anyone she knew ever canned meat, and she said my grandma canned chicken once when she was a kid.
6. Botulism spores are not killed by boiling water. You need to get it to 250F (about 120C) to kill it.
7. You have to have just the right conditions for botulism to be there in the first place, and then reproduce, so it's actually pretty rare.
8. Botulinum toxin is found in soil, and it's most common for intravenous drug users to become sick from it.
9. Botulinum toxin needs an anaerobic environment (no oxygen) and warm conditions to grow.
10. A lot of places in the world, water bath canning is the only method they have.
Now the questions.
1. Regarding #4 above, if infants develop a resistance to botulism by 12 months (or thereabouts, obviously everyone is different, it could be earlier or later), wouldn't they also be resistant to it in canned food?
2. Was water bath canning always as 'dangerous' as the authorities tell us it is now? Or did people just have better immune systems to handle it? How many of us have healthy immune systems now?
3. Regarding #8 above, if it's found in soil, then wouldn't cleaning your food really well before canning mitigate the risk somewhat?
4. Regarding #3 and #7 above, if it's so rare, and only 5-10% die from it, is it really worth all the fuss making sure people buy expensive pressure canners to can their non-acidic foods?
5. Couldn't you just add some acid to food to make it more acidic?
6. Is our industrial food production part of the problem? Does this make botulism more prevalent, using modern pesticides, herbicides, and factory farming procedures, and thus necessitate pressure canning of certain foods that are grown/raised this way? Would fully organic fruit & vegetables, and pasture raised meat be less prone to these problems?
It seems to me that if you keep all the food really clean, cook it hot enough and long enough, make sure your jars are clean and undamaged, make sure your lids are clean and seal properly, and do the water bathing properly, and then store it correctly after it's preserved, that should minimise the risk of most toxins.
There's still a lot that I don't know, and I'm not advocating one way or the other. I just think there needs to be more open discussion of this topic, rather than one group of people shutting down the other group of people just for thinking differently.