Botulism food alert issued following case in UK
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre of the HSE has been informed via the Early Warning Response System of the European Union of an alert from the United Kingdom of a case of botulism. The patient, who is recovering in hospital, had consumed olives from a jar that tested positive for Clostridium botulinum type B toxin. The Food Standards Agency in the UK is investigating where the product may have been sold. FSAI have reported that “at this stage, there is no known distribution of this product to Ireland. The product is most likely to be sold via specialist delicatessens. The variety of the implicated large olives is “Bella di Cerignola”. The brand name “I Divini di Chicco Francesco” is the only brand implicated in this incident.” Full details of the FSAI food alert are available here.
Botulism occurs when the spores of the organism Clostridium botulinum have germinated and the bacteria have reproduced in an environment outside the body and produced toxin - this environment is usually a foodstuff. The adult then consumes the toxin itself when they eat the food, and this makes them ill with weakness and paralysis. Clostridium botulinum is an "anaerobic bacterium" which means it can only grow in the absence of oxygen, so botulism in adults tends to occur when the spores have somehow got into an airtight environment such as tins or jars, particularly home-preserved foods which have been preserved in oil. The toxin is destroyed by normal cooking processes.
Cases of foodborne botulism are very rare in Ireland.
More information on botulism is available at http://www.hpsc.ie/hpsc/A-Z/Gastroenteric/Botulism/Factsheet/