It’s been quite a while since I’ve cooked low-fodmap/IBS-Friendly/GERD & Acid Reflux Friendly style. Now that I’m gearing up to try it out again, I thought it would be a great idea to make my own garlic-infused oil at home. Unfortunately, after much research I’ve found that while it’s possible to make at home, using/eating it could kill you. (Um… what?)
Seriously, though. Apparently fresh garlic in olive oil is the perfect breeding ground for botulism (you know, that thing they warn you about with dented cans?). All kidding aside, botulism is quite serious, especially since it’s virtually impossible to tell if a food you’re about to ingest contains the bacteria. Once ingested, though, it often turns fatal (see? garlic kills, even if you’re not a vampire). And actually, all homemade herb-infused oils pose this risk when using fresh herbs (it has to do with water content).
There is evidence all over the place regarding this, but a couple of good resources are here and here. If you use dried herbs, or if the fresh garlic/herbs are acidified according to certain specifications before going into the oil, then the oil is totally safe. Most of us aren’t scientists, though, so acidifying herbs is probably out of our skill-sets, and I would advise against using garlic powder for those with IBS and/or Reflux, as it is a common trigger.
Now, the research does say that you should probably be ok if you make the infused oil using fresh garlic and herbs if you refrigerate it immediately and use within 2-4 days. To me, though, this seems pointless. Not only do you have to do your cooking with it within that time frame, but you have to eat the food it’s used in within that time frame. Personally, I like to have a nice big bottle of oil on hand, ready at a moment’s notice, so I don’t want to have to know exactly how much oil I need to make so then I only make exactly enough and don’t end up having to throw some away after the 2-4 day mark. Plus I’m a big fan of leftovers, and simply don’t want to be risking it every time I make a salad or rice with the oil that then sits out or doesn’t all get eaten. Not to mention, I feel that when you’re dealing with such a short time frame for something to be safe, that is a really large range. I mean, if it’s safe up to 4 days, why not say 4? 2 is definitely ok, but 3 and 4 you’re eating at your own risk?
As someone who is generally super keen on staying as far away from food that may kill me as possible, the risks here simply aren’t worth it to me, especially since it’s super easy to find infused oils for purchase these days, given how popular they’ve become. What a bummer, though. I was all excited to be able to make my own infused oil and pick and choose what additional herbs to pair with the garlic in there and offer the recipe up for you all. Luckily there are plenty of options for finding mass-market garlic infused oil out there (check walmart.com, amazon.com, or a simple google search will give you the various sellers). Always make sure to read the bottle – wherever you get it – both to make sure they used fresh garlic (not powder) and to make sure it’s been safely made. In my experience, if it says “real garlic” as the ingredient, that means they used fresh garlic, and if it says “garlic flavor” as the ingredient, it means garlic powder. If it’s from a commercial seller, they will have needed to acidify the herbs in order to sell it. Just check to see if the bottle indicates if it needs to be refrigerated after opening or any other directions for storage.
**FYI, for those of you with IBS and/or GERD/Acid Reflux, check out our digestive health pages: The IBS Lowdown, The Word on GERD (& Acid Reflux/Heartburn), The IBS & GERD Connection, Low FODMAP Food Plan, Shopping w/Dietary Restrictions and What a Symptom-Free Day Looks Like.**