Botulism: beware the Olive Bella Di Cerignola

Tests carried out by the U.K. Health Protection Agency (HPA) identified the toxin that causes botulism in a jar of Italian olives after an Oxfordshire resident was admitted to hospital with botulism poisoning. No further cases have been identified to date.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is now asking people who have bought jars of the implicated olives not to eat them and to contact their local authority environmental health food safety team to arrange collection of the product.

The implicated olives are “Olive Bella Di Cerignola” produced by ‘I Divini’. These are large green olives from the Puglia region of Italy and are packaged in brine in glass jars with a lot number of 161/11 and best before date of 10/06/2014. This type of olive is distributed under a number of different brand names but only the I DIVINI di Chicco Francesco brand is associated with this incident.

The HPA is working with the local authority environmental health department and the Food Standards Agency on the investigation. Botulism is rare in the UK – there have only been 33 recorded cases of food-borne botulism in England and Wales since 1989, with 27 of these linked to a single outbreak.

Investigations into the supply of these olives are focusing on delicatessen shops where this product could be on sale. Health professionals across the UK have been made aware of the case and advised to look out for people of all ages with possible symptoms.