Food Preservation on the WebWeb Savvy Tip:
A User's Guide to Safe Information
by: Lizann Powers-Hammond and Val Hillers
Be Web Savvy For The Safety Of Your Family!
The World Wide Web can be a great place to find volumes of information on certain topics. When it comes to food preservation, it is important to evaluate the information very carefully. Preparing a safe home-canned product involves having a laboratory tested recipe with research based processing time. If the recipe posted is not from a credible source, it could produce a product that is hazardous to your health.
Screening Web Sites for Safe Information
When searching for food preservation information on the web, the goal is to locate information that produces a safe product. A good first step is to determine who created the web site.
Use the web address to identify the source of the information. The end of the address (domain name) identifies the type of organization.
Government: .gov or .us
Non-profit Organizations: .org
Additional information is provided between thehttp://www and the ending. This can help you identify the organization, institution or individual responsible for posting the information. For example: http://www.usda.gov identifies this site as the United States Department of Agriculture, a government organization.
United States Government Web Sites
Throughout history, the United States Department of Agriculture has been involved in publishing research-based food preservation information. Web sites that reference USDA recipes provide a safe source of information as long as the recipes are up-to-date.
Cooperative Extension Web Sites
The Cooperative Extension service has long been recognized as a credible source of research-based food preservation information.
Across the nation Cooperative Extension programs are affiliated with the land-grant universities in each state. Web addresses for Cooperative Extension programs often have the name of the university abbreviated in the address. Some addresses also make a reference to Cooperative Extension.
For example: http://ext.wsu.edu/
takes you to the web site for Washington State University Extension.
USDA and Cooperative Extension Web sites publishonly researched-based food preservation information. The recipes on these sites have been tested to guarantee the safety of the final product when followed as written.
Commercial Web Sites
Some commercial companies publish food preservation information on their web sites. For example, the following site is for the Kerr Alltrista Corporation® (formerly the Kerr and Ball Canning Companies).
Web Savvy Tip:
Food preservation information from commercial web sites may or may not be safe. Some companies post research based information, others do not. It’s a good idea to have information from these sites screened by a food safety expert.
Personal Web Sites
Addresses of personal web sites often contain an internet service provider (ISP) company name, personal name, list name or combination of these. Some examples of how a personal web site might look are:
*Sample only-not an actual web site.
Web Savvy Tip:
Be especially cautious of personal web sites, recipe web sites and cooking exchange lists for food preservation information. Anything can be posted to these sites. Always have these recipes screened by a food safety expert before using them.
What is the Meaning of “Research-Based”?
Home canning has changed greatly in the 170 years since it was introduced as a way to preserve foods. Scientists have found ways to produce safer, higher quality products. Too many times people don’t understand there are risks when processing food at home. Those risks include botulism poisoning, which can lead to illness and even death.
The development of a canning recipe is an extensive process. It involves repeating the entire preparation and canning process 15-30 times to obtain accurate heat penetration data. Then, microorganisms are put into the jars before processing to make sure the processing time is sufficient to destroy them. This research must take place in a laboratory with equipment for testing heat penetration and microbiology. This is why processing times cannot be made up! It’s also why a sealed jar does not mean it’s a safe jar.
National Food Safety Data System
USDA and the National Center for Home Food Preservation have compiled the most complete source of tested food preservation recipes in a publication called “The Complete Guide To Home Canning”. It is available at the National Center for Home Food Preservation web site. A link to the "Complete Guide to Home Canning" is on this web-site.
Trade names have been used to simplify information; no endorsement is intended.