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Botulism Blog

Surveillance & Analysis on Botulism News & Outbreaks

Botulism Risk in Canned Tuna from Oregon

ucm466533Skipanon Brand Seafood LLC of Warrenton, OR, is voluntarily recalling ALL LOTS, ALL SIZES of ALL Skipanon brand canned seafood products because they have the potential to be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium which can cause life-threatening illness or death. Consumers are warned not to use any of the recalled product even if it does not look or smell spoiled.

Botulism, a potentially fatal form of food poisoning, can cause the following symptoms: general weakness, dizziness, double-vision and trouble with speaking or swallowing. Difficulty in breathing, weakness of other muscles, abdominal distention and constipation may also be common symptoms. People experiencing these problems should seek immediate medical attention.

There have been no reported cases of illness to date.

Products were distributed to wholesalers and retailers in Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington and sold to Internet customers nationwide from the website at skipanonbrand.com. The last date of distribution of recalled products is September 2015.

Affected production codes include any codes starting with “OC.” The code can be found either at the bottom or on top of the can. Products are packaged in metal cans with net weights ranging from 5.5 oz. to 66.5 oz.

This voluntary recall was initiated due to lack of documentation and possibly under-processed products. The problem was discovered during an inspection by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is ongoing. This recall is being made with the knowledge of FDA and the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Michigan and Botulism

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development on Monday warned consumers who may have purchased products with one of three labels – Brandy’s “Jam”boree-N-More, Brandy & Dutch Weigand and Pier III – to dispose of the products immediately.

No illnesses have been identified at this time. The products were sold at various farmers markets and festivals, including the St. Clair Shores, Dodge Park, Sterling Heights, Shelby Township and New Baltimore farmers markets.

The products were manufactured in an unlicensed facility not using required controls for safe production of processed foods, the MDARD said.

Known products include various pickled products, relishes, syrups and jams, but other products may have been produced under these labels. Acidified foods like pickled products pose a serious risk of botulism if pH and other critical factors are not carefully controlled during processing to prevent the growth of C. botulinum, the MDARD said in a statement.

Botulism can cause the following symptoms: general weakness, dizziness, double vision and trouble with speaking or swallowing, difficulty in breathing, weakness of muscles, abdominal distension and constipation.

The very young, the elderly, and persons with compromised immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness. People experiencing these problems should seek immediate medical attention.

Consumers who have any of these products or any foods made with these products should throw them away immediately.

Large Botulism Outbreak at Ohio Church Supper

On April 21, 2015, the Fairfield Medical Center (FMC) and Fairfield Department of Health contacted the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) about a patient suspected of having botulism in Fairfield County, Ohio. Botulism is a severe, potentially fatal neuroparalytic illness.* A single case is a public health emergency, because it can signal an outbreak (1). Within 2 hours of health department notification, four more patients with similar clinical features arrived at FMC’s emergency department. Later that afternoon, one patient died of respiratory failure shortly after arriving at the emergency department. All affected persons had eaten at the same widely attended church potluck meal on April 19. CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile sent 50 doses of botulinum antitoxin to Ohio. FMC, the Fairfield Department of Health, ODH, and CDC rapidly responded to confirm the diagnosis, identify and treat additional patients, and determine the source.

A confirmed case of botulism was defined as clinically compatible illness in a person who ate food from the potluck meal and had 1) laboratory-confirmed botulism or 2) two or more signs of botulism or one sign and two or more symptoms† of botulism. A probable case was a compatible illness that did not meet the confirmed case definition in a person who ate food from the potluck meal.

Among 77 persons who consumed potluck food, 25 (33%) met the confirmed case definition, and four (5%) met the probable case definition. The median age of patients was 64 years (range = 9–87 years); 17 (59%) were female. Among 26 (90%) patients who reported onset dates, illness began a median of 2 days after the potluck (range = 1–6 days).

Twenty-seven of the 29 patients initially went to FMC. Twenty-two (76%) patients were transferred from FMC to six hospitals in the Columbus metropolitan area approximately 30 miles away; these transfers required substantial and rapid coordination. Twenty-five (86%) patients received botulinum antitoxin, and 11 (38%) required endotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation; no other patients died. Within 1 week of the first patient’s arrival at the emergency department, 16 patients (55%) had been discharged. Among 19 cases that were laboratory-confirmed, serum and stool specimens were positive for botulinum neurotoxin type A or Clostridium botulinum type A.

Interviews were conducted with 75 of 77 persons who ate any of the 52 potluck foods. Consumption of any potato salad (homemade or commercial) yielded the highest association with probable or confirmed case status (risk ratio [RR] = 13.9; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 4.6–41.8), followed by homemade potato salad (RR = 9.1; CI = 3.9–21.2). Of 12 food specimens collected from the church dumpster, six were positive for botulinum neurotoxin type A; five contained potato salad and one contained macaroni and cheese that might have been contaminated after being discarded.

The attendee who prepared the potato salad with home-canned potatoes reported using a boiling water canner, which does not kill C. botulinum spores, rather than a pressure canner, which does eliminate spores (2). In addition, the potatoes were not heated after removal from the can, a step that can inactivate botulinum toxin. The combined evidence implicated potato salad prepared with improperly home-canned potatoes, a known vehicle for botulism (3).

This was the largest botulism outbreak in the United States in nearly 40 years (Table). Early recognition of the outbreak by an astute clinician and a rapid, coordinated response likely reduced illness severity and facilitated early hospital discharge. This outbreak response illustrates the benefits of coordination among responders during botulism outbreaks. Close adherence to established home-canning guidelines can prevent botulism and enable safe sharing of home-canned produce (2).


Fairfield Medical Center, Lancaster, Ohio; Fairfield Department of Health, Lancaster, Ohio; Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Bureau of Infectious Diseases, Columbus, Ohio; ODH Bureau of Public Health Laboratory, Reynoldsburg, Ohio; ODH Office of Preparedness, Columbus, Ohio; Franklin County Public Health, Columbus, Ohio; Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, CDC; Strategic National Stockpile, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, CDC; Office of Regulatory Affairs, CDC.
1Ohio Department of Health; 2Epidemic Intelligence Service, CDC; 3Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Infectious Diseases, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, CDC; 4Fairfield Department of Health; 5Fairfield Medical Center. Corresponding author: Carolyn L. McCarty, wmw8@cdc.gov, 614-728-6941.


Sobel J. Botulism. Clin Infect Dis 2005;41:1167–73.
National Center for Home Food Preservation, US Department of Agriculture. USDA complete guide to home canning, 2009 revision. Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture; 2009. Available at http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.htmlExternal Web Site Icon.
Sobel J, Tucker N, Sulka A, McLaughlin J, Maslanka S. Foodborne botulism in the United States, 1990–2000. Emerg Infect Dis 2004;10:1606–11.

Pickles Recalled Over Botulism Concern

Homemade of Leavenworth, Washington is recalling pickle and sauce products because they may have been improperly produced. Washington State Department of Agriculture routine sampling discovered that a bottle of Homemade Bread and Butter Pickles had a pH level high enough to allow the growth of Clostridium botulinum. Required records were not available to support that safe processing guidelines were followed on all sauce and pickle products produced at Homemade.

Foodborne botulism is a severe type of food poisoning caused by the ingestion of foods containing the potent neurotoxin formed during growth of the organism. Foodborne botulism can cause the following symptoms: general weakness, dizziness, double-vision and trouble with speaking or swallowing. Difficulty in breathing, weakness of other muscles, abdominal distension and constipation may also be common symptoms. People experiencing these problems should seek immediate medical attention. Consumers are warned not to use the product even if it does not look or smell spoiled.

Recalled products are packaged in clear glass bottles with metal caps. There are no lot codes or expiration dates on recalled products. The following products have been recalled:

Bread and Butter Pickles (16 oz./454 g)
Icicle Pickles (16 oz./454 g)
Pickled Beets (16 oz./454 g)
Chili Sauce (12 oz./340 g)
Lite BBQ Sauce (12 oz./ 340 g)
Medium BBQ Sauce (12 oz./340 g)
Hot BBQ Sauce (12 oz./340 g)
Horseradish BBQ Sauce (12 oz./340 g)

The recalled products were sold from small retailers and fruit stands in Chelan and Douglas counties in Washington State.

Jarred Salsa from Ohio Recalled Over Botulism Risk

Jose-Madrid-salsa-jar-200x300-200x300Jose Madrid Salsa of Zanesville, OH, has recalled its mild salsa because the jars are not properly sealed and therefore present a health risk. Improperly sealed jars can lead to product spoilage or contamination by the bacteria that cause botulism.

Jose Madrid salsa jar lids may have been convex instead of vacuum sealed, according to the company. Compromised seals or seams could result in product contamination by spoilage organisms or pathogens and may lead to illness if consumed. These jars were distributed in the Zanesville and Baltimore, MD, areas.

Approximately 96 jars of product sold are involved in this recall. Individual jars will show product lot code:

601 0101

There have been no reports to date of any illness associated with these products.

31 Botulism Cases in Ohio

Based on laboratory tests and interviews with potluck attendees, public health officials have concluded that potato salad made with home-canned potatoes is the likely cause of a foodborne botulism outbreak following a church potluck in Lancaster on April 19.

Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by certain kinds of bacteria.

As of today, there are 21 confirmed cases of botulism associated with this outbreak, including one death. There are 10 suspected cases in which the individuals are exhibiting symptoms consistent with botulism. Patients have been treated with a botulism antitoxin provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and 12 remain hospitalized.

“This is a difficult time for our community, and our thoughts and prayers are with the affected individuals and their families,” said Mark Aebi, M.D., Health Commissioner & Medical Director for Fairfield Department of Health. “I want to thank our staff for their dedication and hard work during this outbreak as well as the tremendous support we have received from ODH and the CDC. FMC’s rapid assessment and participation in this response has been invaluable as well.”

Mary DiOrio, M.D., Medical Director of the Ohio Department of Health, noted the local, state and federal collaboration in responding to the outbreak. The response involved public health including Fairfield Department of Health, Ohio Department of Health, and CDC, as well as central Ohio hospitals including Fairfield Medical Center.

“I want to thank my colleagues in these public health agencies and hospitals for the tremendous work that they have done to treat individuals who have been sickened, and to investigate and control the outbreak,” she said.

Ohio Church Potluck Turns Deadly

One person is dead, and 24 others are being treated for botulism at Fairfield Medical Center.

Health officials say all of the people who are ill attended a potluck at Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church Sunday.

Health officials report 50 to 60 people attended the potluck.

Botulism is a rare paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin, and can be foodborne. The hospital says a neurologist determined a patient had botulism Tuesday morning, and a short time later, two other cases were identified. All of the patients came in to the Emergency Department at Fairfield Medical Center, but the hospital says several have been transferred to other medical facilities.

All of the people affected had symptoms that included double vision, blurred vision, difficulty swallowing, and blurred vision. Doctors are working on getting an anti-toxin from the Centers for Disease Control to treat the patients.

The Fairfield Medical Center is reminding the community that botulism is not contagious, so there is no threat to the community. But medical officials are encouraging anyone who was at the potluck to come to the emergency department. The medical center has also set up an emergency hotline to answer questions at 740-687-8053.

“Dry Bream-lesh (fish)” Recalled Over Botulism Risk

The New York Department of Agriculture today warned consumers not to eat “Dry Bream-lesh (fish)” sold by Tatuka Inc. of Brooklyn, NY, and distributed by Royal Sweet Bakery, also of Brooklyn, because the product was found to be uneviscerated.

Dried fish labelThe “Dry Bream-lesh (fish)” was sold from retail stores to consumers in the NYC metro area. The product was packaged in a clear, vacuum-packed, flexible plastic pouch and offered for sale at refrigerated temperatures. The product is coded with a “Best before: 01:08:2015” date and is a product of Russia.

Uneviscerated processed fish is prohibited under New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ regulations because Clostridium botulinum spores are more likely to be concentrated in the viscera than any other portion of the fish.

Because this fish product is uneviscerated, the product may be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum spores, which can cause botulism, a serious and potentially fatal foodborne illness. Symptoms of botulism include blurred or double vision, general weakness, poor reflexes, difficulty swallowing, and respiratory paralysis.

The “dry bream-lesh (fish)” was found by New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets food inspectors during a routine inspection of the retail firm. Subsequent analysis by New York State Food Laboratory personnel confirmed the product to be uneviscerated.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with the product. Consumers who have this product are advised not to eat it.

New Mexico Department of Health Investigates Botulism Cases

The New Mexico Department of Health is cooperating with the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on an investigation of two patients who are hospitalized in Texas with suspected botulism. The source is currently being investigated but is likely contaminated food. The patients are two adults from Lea County.

Botulism is a rare but potentially fatal illness caused by a nerve toxin that causes paralysis. All healthcare providers should consider botulism in patients presenting with the following signs and symptoms:

Double vision
Blurred vision
Drooping eyelids
Slurred speech
Difficulty swallowing
Dry mouth
Muscle weakness/descending paralysis
Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath

If untreated, these symptoms may progress to cause paralysis of the respiratory muscles, arms, legs, and trunk with subsequent death. Physicians should consider the diagnosis if physical examination suggest botulism.

The New Mexico Department of Health recommends:

If you or someone you know experiences any of the symptoms listed above immediately seek professional medical care.

All clinicians be alert for cases of botulism and consult New Mexico Department of Health for all suspect cases.

Report any suspect case to the Department of Health 24/7/365 at: 505-827-0006 so that antitoxin can be obtained as soon as possible if indicated.

Botulism Risk From Uneviscerated Fish

Moscahlades Bros Inc. of Paterson, NJ is recalling Hellas Golden Double Smoked Herring because it has the potential to be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium which can cause life­ threatening illness or death. Consumers are warned not to use the product even if it does not look or smell spoiled.

Botulism, a potentially fatal form of food poisoning, can cause the following symptoms: general weakness, dizziness, double-vision and trouble with speaking or swallowing. Difficulty in breathing, weakness of other muscles, abdominal distension and constipation may also be common symptoms. People experiencing these problems should seek immediate medical attention.

Hellas Golden Double Smoked Herring was distributed to IL, MD, MI, MA, NC, NY, and NJ. The product was sold in retail stores.

The product is in vacuum pack clear plastic packaging with a white label. The brand name is HELLAS from KARAGOUNIS BROS SA and imported by MOSCAHLADES BROS INC. There are two lots. LOT# L180314F33, Production date 18/3/14, Best Before 18/3/15, shipped March 2014. The second lot production date is 14/10/2014, Best Before 14/10/2015, Lot# L141014F33 shipped October 2014.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

During a routine inspection by FDA of Karagounis Bros SA in Greece it was discovered the herring was uneviscerated.