Clostridium botulinum can grow and form toxin at pH values lower than 4.6

Nature. 1979 Oct 4;281(5730):398-9. doi: 10.1038/281398a0.


It is generally accepted that in Clostridium botulinum both growth and toxin formation are completely inhibited at pH values below 4.6. This critical pH value has been confirmed by many investigators using food as substrate or culture media. Occasionally growth of C. botulinum and toxin formation at pH values lower than 4.6 have been reported. In these cases the authors ascribed the unexpected outgrowth and toxin formation to local pH differences in inhomogeneous media and growth of C. botulinum before pH equilibration, or to the fact that fungi created microenvironments within or adjacent to the mycelial mat, where the pH was higher than 4.6 as was demonstrated by Odlaug and Pflug. We show here that the general assumption that C. botulinum does not grow below pH 4.6 is incorrect. We have observed that growth and toxin formation by C. botulinum can take place in homogeneous protein rich substrates (containing 3% or more soya or milk protein) at pH values lower than 4.6.

MeSH terms

  • Botulinum Toxins / biosynthesis*
  • Clostridium botulinum / growth & development
  • Clostridium botulinum / physiology*
  • Culture Media
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration*
  • Milk Proteins / metabolism
  • Soybeans


  • Culture Media
  • Milk Proteins
  • Botulinum Toxins