1 dead, 3 sick from botulism in Armenia

A foodborne botulism case has been registered in the capital city.

peppers-armenia-botAs a result of food poisoning 4 victims have been hospitalized, one of which died. The cause for food intoxication was the use of homemade canned peppers. The family members had eaten the canned peppers on October 26th. 24 hours after the intake, one of the family members felt typical symptoms of botulism, while for the rest of the family the symptoms emerged on the 3rd day. The first victim was taken to Armenia Republican Medical Center, where he died yesterday. The other members of the family are still receiving treatment. 

Tajikistan concerned over increasing number of botulism cases

Asia Plus reports that Tajik Deputy Prime Minister, Azim Ibrohim, who also heads the Council for Food Safety Issues, has expressed concern about increasing number of botulism cases in Tajikistan.

c.bot.cannd.vegetalesThe Council for Food Safety Issues reportedly held a meeting here yesterday.

Speaking at the meeting, Ibrohim demanded that heads of good safety management bodies give reports on implementation of the plan of work for the first half-year of 2016.

It was noted that the number of botulism cases has increased in the country and that the home-canned vegetables are the most common cause of botulism.

Ibrohim ordered the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection and other relevant bodies to prepare the guide to home canning.

Ibrohim reportedly drew attention of meeting participants to slow introduction of the ISO 22000 standard.


Homemade or prison-made, hootch has risks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a botulism outbreak at the federal prison in Yazoo City after 17 inmates became ill from drinking homemade alcohol.

27-Alcohol-Still-Heating-CoilLast week, the inmates consumed alcohol they made in the prison, according to Mississippi Department of Health spokesperson Liz Sharlot.

The inmates then began showing signs of botulism and required hospitalization. They were transferred to three hospitals in the Jackson area and each received an anti-toxin, Sharlot said.

To date, 15 of the 17 inmates remain hospitalized, according to a press release issued by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. One inmate was transferred to a federal prison in Oklahoma City before he began showing signs of botulism. He was also hospitalized.

According to Sharlot, the inmates were hospitalized over the course of the week, with one hospitalized over the weekend.

The outbreak is the sixth botulism  in the United States prison system since 2004, Sharlot said.

Meanwhile, a Queensland father has been found guilty of killing his son and two friends — and seriously injuring a second son — by accidentally giving them a toxic home brew.

The jury delivered its verdict against William Neil Clarence Lynam after three hours of deliberation, finding him guilty of three counts of manslaughter and one of grievous bodily harm.

Lynam had pleaded not guilty to each of the four charges.


Dear Abby: how do I avoid botulism?

Doug introduced me to John Prine about 15 years ago. I’ve got a bunch of Prine albums in my iTunes and Dear Abby, from Sweet Revenge is a great kitchen sing-along song.

Food safety questions pop up in the Dear Abby-type advice columns, this weeks version from Telegram.com.

Q: How do I avoid botulism poisoning in my potato salad and deviled eggs during the summer picnic season? I am very concerned about this.220px-Pauline_Phillips_1961

— Chris Snashall, Grove City, Ohio

A: Let’s first distinguish between botulism and other forms of foodborne illnesses.
Botulism is a severe illness in which a nerve toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum causes paralysis — and in severe cases, death.

Botulism is most often caused by food that isn’t properly home-canned. Typically it results when low-acid foods (such as potatoes or green beans) are not pressure-canned; the high temperature of that process is required to make them safe.

Because the botulinum toxin is destroyed by high temperatures, people who eat home-canned foods should, to ensure safety, consider boiling the food for 10 minutes before eating it. (or follow evaluated, science-based recipes/processing times -ben)

Other common causes of botulism are home-made herb or garlic oils that aren’t refrigerated, and potatoes that have been wrapped in foil to bake and either not kept hot enough or refrigerated in the foil. In both cases, the bacteria are left at a temperature at which they can multiply rapidly. (first they go from spore form to vegetative cell and then secrete the toxin while multiplying -ben).

Unless you are making your potato salad and deviled eggs with home-canned foods, botulism should not be a concern.

In 2015, home canned potatoes used in potato salad caused one of the largest bot outbreaks in the U.S. with over 20 illnesses and two deaths.

Canned potato outbreak linked to two deaths in 2015

I really am scared of botulism. Not in an irrational way – I get the risk calculation stuff.

Prevalence is low but consequence is way high. Like months of health problems. Which might lead to death before recovery.ChBGKI-WgAAoAh7

Tragically, the 2015 Lancaster Ohio botulism outbreak claimed a second life (initial reports cited one, Kim Shaw) according to My Fox 28.

A second woman passed away from the botulism contamination that poisoned 21 other people at a church pot luck last year.

The family of Marcella Barbee, 65, said she died in November 2015.

Barbee was a member of Cross Pointe Church and had contracted botulism following the church potluck and suffered from a number of health issues as a result.

A botulism outbreak a year later: ‘It was all just a big accident’

A year ago a group of folks went to a fellowship event at a small town Ohio church; they ate a potluck meal including potato salad.

As the foodborne epidemiologists used to say, ‘it’s always the potato salad’; usually referring to staph toxin outbreaks – where dishes sit out at room temperature either in the preparer’s home, during the transport, or before everyone lines up to eat.DSCF4433

Except usually it isn’t (see our list of community meal outbreaks here).

But this time it was.

But it wasn’t staph; 22 community members got botulism. One died.

A year later, according to Fox 28, the community is still feeling the effects.

“It is more than a dream. It’s a nightmare anybody that lives through it will tell you it is a nightmare,” said Linda Large, whose husband Ben was the first victim diagnosed with botulism. Large credits the good Lord with getting her husband through a year of a debilitating illness.

“Believing in the Lord knowing that he was with me and he carried me through this, that is the only way, no other answer or explanation,” said Ben, 61 who has since retired early due to his health struggles. But the couple is thankful they are still around to enjoy ten grandchildren.

The family of Kim Shaw, 55, who died in the outbreak is still coming to grips with what happened.

Shaw’s husband, Christopher, said he has a new outlook on life after Kim’s passing.

Christopher said every morning he wakes up thinking the botulism outbreak was a dream. “I am patiently waiting for the dream to be over.”

As for the woman who brought the tainted potato salad to the potluck, Shaw said he doesn’t blame her.

“She made that potato salad with love. She canned those potatoes with love. Nothing I could say to that poor lady that would make her feel worse than she already does.”

Victims said they can never thank the community and the hospital workers enough for standing by them. The congregation said the crisis has made them stronger. There have been no more potlucks since the outbreak, but many more things shared.

“This is a family, a church family. It was all just a big accident, and we hope it will never happen again,” said Shaw.

Add the correct amount of vinegar and check the pH

One of the roles I inherited when I came to North Carolina is organizing the judges for annual home food preservation competition at the State Fair. The fair has a long history in scoring entries based on color, consistency, shapes and in some categories, taste.

According to the fair organizers we’re one of a handful of state fairs that allow judges to taste entries. During the 2014 competition a couple of judges tasted a canned product that was supposed to be pickled. If acidified correctly the safe processing step would be a boiling water bath.

One of the judges, as seasoned veteran of the process said she couldn’t taste any vinegar. We tested the pH was and it was 6.1; a nice environment for bot toxin production.mustard-relish-recall

Someone probably forgot to add the vinegar. And that put a couple of volunteers at risk for a devastating illness.

Sort of sounds like what happened at HardyWares Preserves in Nova Scotia (that’s in Canada).

According to CBC news the small Maritime food processor is pulling their mustard relish from the market because they made a mistake. And didn’t likely add enough vinegar to reduce the chance of botulism.

Larry and Margaret Hardy, from Necum Teuch, are the co-owners of HardyWares Preserves. They sell jams, jellies and relishes that they make in their home kitchen.

Their 250-millilitre bottle of mustard relish, packaged on Dec. 3, 2015, is being recalled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency because the relish could permit the growth of the bacteria that leads to botulism.

“It was a shock, an absolute shock. Because we’ve had nothing of this nature before,” said Larry Hardy.

Hardy said the agency didn’t tell him botulism toxin had been found in the product, but rather that the acid level of the relish was too low — which meant the bacteria could grow.

“It’s definitely human error, but my biggest guess is that I was busy and I was working away, and I probably put in not enough vinegar into the product,” he said.

“Whatever I did, I upset the balance of it.”

The Dec. 3 batch of mustard relish contained 21 jars. Hardy says he has accounted for all but 10. He sold them at the Alderney Landing Farmers’ Market around Christmastime.

Alaska nursing home seeks to make safer seal oil for residents

My botulism fears have been well detailed. I don’t mess with it; paralysis and the long term effects are enough to convince me to take risk management steps like avoiding risky foods.

Like seal oil.

A 2014 botulism outbreak linked to seal oil led to over 25 illnesses in Alaska. There was another outbreak in 1997. There have been others too.garlic-scapes-2

But the food has a lot of cultural importance – and a according to the Daily Mail, nursing home is working with bot experts to process the oil, often home made and donated, safely.

An Alaskan Native organization asked for permission to serve its nursing home residents nutrient-rich seal oil.

Regulators are working with the Kotzebue-based Maniilaq Association to possibly serve the seal oil, a traditional staple that’s banned in public settings because of its high risk for botulism if not properly processed.

Lorinda Lhotka with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, said the agency would grant an exemption to the Kotzebue-based Maniilaq Association if it can demonstrate a safe method for rendering the oil, which can taste like a heavy, if slightly fishy, olive oil when fresh.

It’s used like a dipping sauce in Native households across the state.

‘We know that it’s a really healthy food, but there’s also some hazards associated with it if it’s not prepared safely,’ said Lhotka, a member of an unofficial task force looking at ways to make seal oil legally available.

Alaska consistently ranks among the highest in the nation for rates of foodborne botulism. The numbers vary widely, but generally range between zero and as many as 15 people affected each year.

Deaths, however, are rare, occurring in Alaska only twice in the last 10 years, according to Louisa Castrodale, a state epidemiologist.

Maniilaq, a regional tribal health care nonprofit based in Kotzebue, hopes it can add seal oil to the list of traditional foods that can legally be donated to facilities such as its Kotzebue nursing home, which serves elderly Inupiat Eskimos.

For its seal oil quest, Maniilaq has teamed up with University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers, as well as University of Wisconsin botulism expert Eric Johnson, to assess the oil rendering process at its new Kotzebue processing plant for traditional foods.



Minnesota infant survives brush with botulism

The 3-month-old daughter of Wesley and Sarah Hendrickson of Brainerd, Della, was diagnosed earlier this month with infant botulism.

botulism microAfter another hospital stay at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd the next day, the Hendrickson family was airlifted to the St. Paul campus of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics later that evening. One of the doctors there had coincidentally treated two cases of infant botulism in his career beforehand and recognized the symptoms.

The doctors called a facility in California and requested them to ship a single antitoxin dose to Minnesota. That dose alone cost more than $45,000—but Della’s parents knew it could shorten her hospital stay from months to weeks.

After the dose was administered early March 13, the Hendricksons began to see a gradual improvement in Della’s condition—a breathing tube taken out one day, her ability to smile coming back another. Eventually, they moved out of the intensive care unit, to a regular hospital wing, and since then they’ve been working with rehabilitative therapists to improve Della’s functions.

Doctors project that Della will make a full recovery with no limitations, Wesley said. They might be able go home as soon as Saturday.

They can’t pin down a source for the spores. It could have been from neighbors clearing debris from the July 12 storm—or it could have been construction, or logging.

Infants can contract botulism through spores because their digestive systems produce less acid than adults—acid which would otherwise kill the toxin-producing botulism bacteria.

So far in 2016, Della has been one of two total cases of infant botulism. The other case was an infant in the metro area.

Botulism can sometimes be contracted when infants eat contaminated honey.

Poorly made pesto led to two botulism cases in 2014

Mrs. Kalisz, my middle school family studies teacher warned of the dangers of botulism by showing the class a bulging can of beans (which she kept in a ziplock bag). One of my classmates picked it up while she was demonstrating something and she freaked out like he was shaking a grenade.

I’ve been afraid of botulism ever since.newpesto72_large-229x300

The first case of food-related botulism recorded in the medical literature occurred in Germany in 1735 and was traced to uncooked fermented blood sausage. Food safety history guru (and pretty decent margarita recipe developer) Carl Custer pointed out in an IAFP workshop that botulism concerns (and regulatory responses) go back further than that. In the 10th century, Emperor Leo VI of Byzantium prohibited the manufacture of blood sausage because of repeated illnesses leaving folks paralyzed and dying not too long after exposure.

Botulism (derived from botulus, the latin word for sausage) is pretty nasty.

The spores, found commonly in soil turn into vegetative cells and secretes neurotoxins when the conditions are right: high pH, no oxygen and temperatures between 41F and 106F.

Sorta like jarred pesto stored at room temperature.

According to my favorite weekly publication, MMWR, two individuals got botulism from contaminated pesto in 2014 linked to a California business.

The two patients reported sharing a meal of baked chicken breasts, boiled pasta, steamed vegetables, and company A Pine Nut Basil Pesto on July 13 at approximately 8:30 p.m.

Patient A received the pesto from a family member who had purchased several jars in May 2014 at a farm stand in San Clemente, California. Health officials in California collected and analyzed an unopened jar of the pesto from this family member’s house. It was found to have a pH of 5.3 and water activity* of 0.965

On July 29, 2014, CDPH began an investigation and discovered multiple jarred food items, including the Pine Nut Basil Pesto, available for sale on company A’s website (VR Green Farms -ben) and farm stand. Neither company A nor the pesto manufacturer had permits or registrations allowing them to legally manufacture or sell canned food, including food in jars, in California. CDPH investigators identified a lack of knowledge of safety issues involved with jarring foods and inadequate acidification and pressurization practices. There were no records indicating that critical factors (e.g., pH, time, and temperature) were monitored during production. Invoices showed at least 39 jars of pesto were produced in 2014. After discussing the link between the cases in Ohio and company A pesto, company A voluntarily recalled all jarred food products. On July 30, CDPH posted Internet and social media notices warning consumers not to eat company A’s jarred foods.

Know the hazards associated with your products. Know how to manage those hazards. Actually do it. Don’t give people botulism.