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Pandemic Canning Challenges: Food Safety, Supply Shortages

Aimee Van Tatenhove

Interest in food preservation has jumped since the start of the pandemic, but so has the spread of unsafe food preservation practices and misinformation.

“People are home more, they're looking at the concern of access of some foods and availability in their grocery stores being limited. And then you think, no wonder that they're picking up on some of that self-reliance skill set, to kind of not only entertain them maybe during being home alone, but certainly to supplement their food storage.” said Teresa Hunsaker, a USU Extension Family and Consumer Science Educator.

At-home food preservation, including pickling, canning, and dehydrating, has spiked since the pandemic took hold earlier this year. Along with the surge in food preservation, shortages in canning and other preservation equipment have become common across the state.

“For example, canning lids. Stores have quadrupled and five timesed the number that they normally go through.” Hunsaker said. “Stores cannot keep any of the canning supplies, even the dehydrators. You can’t even find pickling crocks or fermenting jars or containers. All of it!”

But with the uptick in interest in food preservation, misinformation about safe food preservation has spread as well.

"We're concerned that people are accessing insufficient, and misinformation, through people's blogs and Instagram posts and things like that," Hunsaker said. "So we're concerned that we're going to see an uptick in the number of cases of potentially the botulism toxin that wasn't clearly understood when people were accessing information, and therefore didn't do things correctly.”

More information about canning and safe food preservation methods can be found on the USU Extension website.

Aimee Van Tatenhove is a science reporter at UPR. She spends most of her time interviewing people doing interesting research in Utah and writing stories about wildlife, new technologies and local happenings. She is also a PhD student at Utah State University, studying white pelicans in the Great Salt Lake, so she thinks about birds a lot! She also loves fishing, skiing, baking, and gardening when she has a little free time.