Botulism – Italy
A type of pesto has been linked to a case of foodborne botulism in Italy. The laboratory confirmed case of botulism occurred in Rome and was reported by Italian officials this week.
An epidemiological investigation has placed suspicion on a Sicilian broccoli and almond pesto. The label on the jar stated it was packed by La fattoria biodinamica in the city of Viterbo. Food has been analyzed by the Italian National Institute of Health (ISS) and found to be negative for botulinum toxins. It is currently believed that the product was given as a gift about two months earlier.
Italian officials advised people not to consume the implicated pesto, possibly received as a gift, and told them to pay attention to any non-compliant labeling.
Photo: Clostridium botulinum.
Foodborne botulism is a severe intoxication caused by eating the preformed toxin present in contaminated food. It occurs when spores of bacterium Clostridium botulinum germinate and the organism is allowed to grow and produce toxin in food that is later eaten without sufficient heating or cooking to inactivate the spores. Botulinum toxin is one of the most potent neurotoxins known.
Typically in a few hours to several days after ingestion of the contaminated food, one will start to show the classic symptoms: blurred vision, dry mouth, and difficulty in swallowing. Gastrointestinal symptoms may or may not occur. If untreated, the paralysis can descend through the body starting at the face and working its way down.
Prevention is primarily by proper food preparation. The toxin, though not the organism, is destroyed by heating it to more than 85 C (185 F) for longer than 5 minutes. Honey can contain the organism, and for this reason, honey should not be fed to children under 12 months.
Globally, botulism is fairly rare, with approximately 1,000 cases yearly.
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