Garlic-infused olive oils can be a savory way to add garlic flavor to your cooking. Although you can purchase pressed garlic olive oils, some people try making it themselves. Unfortunately, there are some dangers inherent to making garlic-infused olive oil. The most significant danger of infusing your own olive oil is the possibility of getting botulism, reports the Health Canada website.
What is Botulism
Botulism is a food-borne illness that comes from a bacteria that is found in most types of soil and thus on many root vegetables or bulbs such as garlic. Botulism grows in airless environments which is why storing homemade garlic oil at room temperatures can cause it to grow. Water on or in the garlic supports the growth of botulism bacteria that can then make you sick. Children and older adults are more susceptible to botulism poisoning, but people of any age can get it.
Symptoms of Botulism
The symptoms of botulism include blurred or double vision, slurred speech or difficulty swallowing and muscle weakness. In infants the common symptoms include lethargy, poor muscle tone and poor feeding. Botulism causes general muscle weakness and paralysis and ultimately can cause paralysis of the respiratory muscles, arms and legs. Symptoms of food-borne botulism typically occur between 18 and 36 hours after eating a contaminated food. Fortunately, botulism can be treated with an antitoxin and most people recover from the disease.
In addition to the potential for growing botulism, trying to make garlic-infused olive oil can leave you with rancid, unusable oil. Any contaminants in your bottle or cap can cause the oil to go rancid. Even thoroughly sterilizing your bottle and cap is no guarantee that contaminants will not be introduced during the bottling process and that your garlic-infused olive oil will not grow botulism.
Safe Infused Olive Oils
There are several ways you can make safe infused olive oil. In order to safely infuse garlic olive oil you must either remove all of the moisture from the garlic or keep the olive oil refrigerated and use it within a week. If you want to infuse garlic flavor into your olive oil, try sautéing crushed garlic clove with your olive oil, then strain the garlic pieces out of the oil and add it to whatever you are cooking.