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Botulism can be treated with a substance that counteracts the toxin if it is diagnosed early. But the breathing problems and paralysis that occur with severe botulism may require a ventilator to breathe for the patient for weeks, plus intensive medical and nursing care. The paralysis slowly improves after several weeks if the patient survives.

"Canning is a dangerous endeavor unless you boil [the product] very well for at least 10 minutes before canning and again before serving," Tierno says.

Other food hygiene tips to help keep your Labor Day safe include cooking chicken, fish, hotdogs, hamburgers, and other meats thoroughly, Tierno tells WebMD. "Don't use anything raw including eggs or vegetables."

Tierno suggests soaking vegetables for 10 minutes in an acid solution such as lemon juice or vinegar, and then scrubbing them to get rid of pesticide or fertilizer residue before cooking them.

"Don't leave foods out for longer than two hours, and dispose of them after that time -- especially potato salad, macaroni salad, and other creamy dishes," he says.

And "when you handle foods, never mix meat and vegetables. Wash all instruments and cutting boards appropriately using a bleach solution of one part bleach to nine parts water and a scrub brush," he says.

Importantly, "if you do become ill within 24 hours after a picnic or barbecue, see a doctor for proper diagnosis and prompt treatment," he says.

For more information on safe canning procedures or food-borne illnesses, contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Hotline at (800) 535-4555.

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