Got a burrito from my favorite burrito spot today for lunch. I really like the green salsa so I got some extra. They were hand prepackaged little cups. The lid felt like there was a bit of pressure in there and it spurted a little when I opened it. Didn't really think anything of it since it's not canned, and it's hand made in store. Poured a bunch on my burrito, and then bit in. It tasted like mildewey alcohol. Smelled bad too. I didn't see any visible mold, but I spit it out immediately. Of course I swallowed a little, but the more I read, the more I'm worried about me having just ingested botulism. Is this possible in tomatillo green salsa that wasn't canned?

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    I don’t know for sure, but it sounds like fermentation is most likely (based on the pressurization and alcohol taste). Botulism is still possible, but it needs anaerobic (without oxygen) environments to really thrive
    – Joe
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 19:50
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    … and you wouldn’t be able to taste botulinum toxin anyway.
    – Stephie
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 21:14

1 Answer 1


First things first: we cannot and will not give individual health advice. If you have a question pertaining your personal well-being, call your healthcare provider.

But we can, at least to some degree, analyze what happened and that will probably help you proceed from there.

Food safety guidelines typically give time margins with restrictions along the lines of “unless you notice signs of spoilage”. This is because our human senses can not detect all dangerous microorganisms or their byproducts - botulism the most famous example and because “unsafe” doesn’t directly translate to “spoilt”.

You noticed a moldy and alcoholic taste, which indicates both mold growth (yes, even if you can’t see the colonies with the bare eye, your mouth and nose are sufficient here) and a fermentation process. While you shouldn’t purposely eat these foods, healthy adults’ bodies can usually handle small amounts that got ingested accidentally without problems. If you are worried about your personal well-being, again, call your GP or similar.

Now to botulism. The basic answer is - we can’t know. First, because C. botulinum and its toxin is tasteless for humans, second because we don’t know about the processes at your burrito place. C. botulinum, the bacteria producing the toxin, can be found in soil (and thus be transferred onto the tomatillos, onions, garlic, whatever grows in soil), but typically as spores. In low-oxygen environments, they can activate and produce the toxin over a certain time span. High acid and sugar levels and low temperatures inhibit bacterial growth. Use this information together with your personal risk tolerance to draw your own conclusions and if you have more questions, contact your healthcare provider.

Note that the observed spoilage is totally unrelated to potential C. botulism growth, we are looking at separate processes with unrelated participants and byproducts.

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    Also, if the OP had botulism toxin poisoning, they wouldn't be posting about it on SA because they would already be in the ER.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Sep 9, 2023 at 6:40
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    @FuzzyChef possibly. But that would be medical advice, which we don’t do here.
    – Stephie
    Commented Sep 9, 2023 at 8:20

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