Ping Phatch - Garlic in Olive Oil

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by eastshores, Jun 24, 2013.

  1. eastshores

    eastshores

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    Phatch, I know you are the resident alarmist (in a good way) when it comes to people storing garlic in olive oil. I actually learned about botulism after seeing you mention that and then reading up on it since the idea of something only being a danger in an anaerobic environment seemed intriguing.

    I recently was at a friends house, and they had garlic cloves in oil. I repeated your warning and they seemed not only surprised but basically said.. I've done that my whole life never had an issue. So what's the deal? Is it a minute risk, or is there something to genuinely be concerned about? Is there a period of incubation that perhaps with enough turnover of the oil would be mitigated?

    Edit: For those new to this here is info on the subject.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2013
  2. french fries

    french fries

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    I've heard that kind of statement SOOO many times. The problem is, you cannot draw ANY single conclusion from such a statement. I consider that statement the equivalent of:

    - I've been driving my entire life without wearing a seatbelt and I never had an issue. 

    - I've always left leftover meats on the counter overnight and never had an issue (I personally know someone who's 75 and has always kept leftover roasted meats on the counter overnight without ever getting sick)

    - I never wore a condom and I never got AIDS. 

    Etc etc...

    We're talking about a risk here. And risks are about statistics - not about a single, isolated example. 

    I'm not sure exactly how big the risk of botulism is when keeping garlic in olive oil, but I remember being strongly warned against it when in culinary school. Then again, I was warned against other things that I continue doing just about everyday. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2013
  3. michaelga

    michaelga

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  4. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm not Phatch but I'd be more than happy to give my opinion.  First off, let me start by saying that I am the furthest thing to be an alarmist when it come to food and foodborne illnesses.  It still make and drink Sun Tea, often eat my burgers MR and purchase raw milk whenever I can.  At home I believe in the 5 second rule and eat pizza left over from the night before that has been sitting out all night, but I no longer make garlic oil.  Instead I just add minced garlic to the amount of oil I will be using for that meal.

    For me the issue lies, not in how likely you are to get botulism poisoning but what the consequences are if you do.  First off botulism isn't like a number of other less dangerous food borne illnesses that just play havoc with your digestive tract for a few hours of misery.  Botulism poisoning will send you to the hospital where they will purge your system by inducing vomiting and/or applying enemas.  If not caught quickly enough you may end up on a respirator for days or even weeks as the paralysis that botulism causes slowly fades.  Even the antitoxin often given can cause many issues and causes anaphyalic shock in a percentage of patients.  Even then botulism still has a mortality rate of between 5-12% depend on what you read.  If over the age of 60 that percentage jumps to approximately 30.  And unlike food borne infections (caused by the bacteria themselves) botulism is an intoxication, meaning that its not the actual bacteria that cause you harm but the waste products that they produce.  This means that heating the food to above 165°F does not render it harmless like with many other food borne illnesses.

    We all have our thresholds for what we consider acceptable risk.  You have to make your own decision as to what you find acceptable.  Sure, the chances of that oil being tainted by botulism are pretty slim, but are the risks worth the potential consequences if you hit that 1 in 500 (a totally random and made up number as an example) chance?
     
    eastshores likes this.
  5. eastshores

    eastshores

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    I agree FF.. it is about statistical risk, but as is everything in life risk and reward. I see no reward to not wearing a seat belt, but my dad as a multiple heart bypass patient can have issues with comfort so for him it is a different story.

    MicahelGA thanks very much for the link. I think that provides the balance of risk and reward.. you get to have garlic infused oil, you can keep it in larger batches, and you decrease your risks of poisoning yourself! I won't be able to convince my friends who put whole cloves in garlic and keep at room temp I'm sure, and statistically speaking they are probably safe.. but sometimes the shoe drops. At least they've been warned.

    Edit: Pete.. great input. I agreed with you (and absolutely agree on the seriousness of the poisoning) and just googled quickly to find info on how heat affects clostridium botulinum and was a bit shocked. On wikipedia there is a reference to Trends in Microbiology and they report the exact opposite. The toxin apparently can be cooked off, but the spores themselves are heat resistant. The specific quote "The toxin itself is rapidly destroyed by heat, such as in thorough cooking.[30] The spores that produce the toxin are heat-tolerant and will survive boiling water for an extended period of time."
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2013
  6. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes, you are right, I misspoke about the toxin vs. the spores which produce the toxin.  That is old school thinking, but it is still the toxin that can kill you, not the spores themselves.
     
  7. michaelga

    michaelga

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    Just remember - the spores can be destroyed in many ways - high temp for relatively short time.

    or

    Lower temps but for a much longer time.

    Destroying bacteria / spores etc. is always a function of the two...Time & Temp.

    ie. You could probably bring the spores to 300F and they wouldn't be destroyed instantly (I haven't actually researched that yet just making an example)

    The long times in the link I gave are to get true carmelized (roasted) garlic flavours. (and ensure the spores are long long destroyed)

    Commercial times are 250F for 3 minutes (once the entire batch is up to temp) - most companies however add an acidifying agent to make sure.

    (don't think official time / temp curves exsist yet - but i bet I can get my hands on some 'draft' ones - should be interesting)
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2013
  8. eastshores

    eastshores

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    Found a link from my state, UF (go gators!) .. information on how heat can destroy the toxin.

    "While the botulinum spores can survive in boiling water, the botulinum toxin is heat-labile. Heating food to a typical cooking temperature of 80°C (176°F) for 10 minutes before consumption can greatly reduce the risk of illness."

    So, you could bring your garlic infused oil up to temp at 176F for 10 minutes and reset the counter on toxicity I believe.
     
  9. michaelga

    michaelga

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    Yup - but the spores will likely survive and you'll be in the same boat again.

    Also the heat will destroy most but not all - so there will likely be a cumulative effect.

    250F for 3 minutes is what commercial canneries have to do - and even they hedge bets by adding acid quite often.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2013
  10. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    It's one of my pet peeves when people bring this logic into an argument when clearly it's not logical at all.  My response is always "when you know better you do better."  I had this issue when I had a baby and was rather militant about placement in the car seat.  All the grandparents were like "relaaaaaaax, there were no car seats when we had you and look at you, you're fine!" 

    Maybe this is a European thing, but I have family members that also keep cooked food (including meat!) on their kitchen counter over night.  I refuse to eat it and then they get all irritated with me.  But I'm not taking any chances, besides I've been around to witness their digestive issues when they have them.  They can't seem to put 2+2 together and understand why their tummies hurt.

    Personally I find it a little yucky, I want my garlic fresh.  I'm more than capable of infusing garlic flavor into my olive oil at the time that it is needed.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2013
  11. chefedb

    chefedb

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    Most commercial chopped garlic is made using dehydrated garlic , which in turn has been subject to high heat. Plus some add ascorbic acid to the water or oil that it is packed in.
     
  12. helloitslucas

    helloitslucas

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    I guess I am on the "bad" side of this argument. The problem is that people put raw garlic in oil and store at room temperature. I use garlic infused oil all of the time, but to make it I put it in a oven-safe Pyrex measuring jar and heat it up past the temperature that kills botulism. I heat it to 125C in the oven, let it cool and then store in the fridge.

    I also eat raw eggs. And raw steak. And raw fish. And raw milk. But that is just me. ;)
     
  13. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    Sure, don't we all?  But as Pete so well explained, the consequences of botulism versus certain other food borne illness are severe.
     
  14. helloitslucas

    helloitslucas

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    Very true! My ";)" was an attempt of slight sarcasm about the entire topic and common sense.
     
  15. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    It's pretty much what Pete said. While the incidence is fairly low, the risks that come if it happens are very high.

    I've got 2 cups of sesame oil, left over from this oil poached tenderloin. I used garlic and ginger in the oil. I've kept the left over oil in the fridge since, but it's time to toss it now. Just too much risk.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2013
  16. french fries

    french fries

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    I heard that exact argument last time I was in France too! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2013
  17. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    In fact people in Greece think I'm a little psycho about it. People there drive with their babies in their lap in the front seat. Just like Britney Spears!