Yesterday, March 8, 2011, The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, warned the public to avoid consuming watermelon jelly prepared by Jamnation Fine Foods due to a potential contamination with toxins produced from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Those toxins may cause botulism, a rare but potentially life-threatening bacterial illness. The company has also issued a recall of the product.
According to Sion Shyng, a Food Safety Specialist at BCCDC, during the summer of 2010, “The jelly was sold through the British Columbia Huntingtons Research Foundation charity booths in Duncan, and may also have been sold in other parts of province.”
Although the product was sold nearly a year ago, officials at BCCDC fear that consumers could still be holding on to it. “We’re concerned that this product may still be in the homes of consumers as jellies can be stored and consumed long after they are purchased,” said Shyng.
Dr. Eleni Galanis, Physician Epidemiologist with BCCDC, explained that “[t]his recall was prompted by a suspect case of botulism on Vancouver Island, and the subsequent investigation of foods recently consumed by the individual.”
“The signs and symptoms of botulism cover a wide spectrum,” noted Dr. Galanis. “Symptoms can begin anywhere from six hours to one week after someone has eaten food containing the toxin,” added Galanis.
In general, symptoms of botulism poisoning include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, double vision, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing, slurred speech, muscle weakness, and muscle paralysis that moves progressively down the body, affecting the arms first, then the legs. In the most serious cases, botulism can also trigger paralysis of the breathing muscles, which may result in death unless respiratory assistance is provided.
The News Desk at Food Safety News reported that “[t]he BCCDC is currently working with B.C. Health Authorities and the B.C. Ministry of Health Services to ensure the recalled product is removed from distribution and is investigating any possible cases of illness.”
Even though the jelly was sold in British Columbia, products such as that are easily transported across the border. Consumers in the U.S. should also make sure that they are not in possession of and have not consumed the product.
Those who may have consumed the jelly and have symptoms compatible with botulism should call the 24-hour HealthLink BC line at 811, contact their physician, or view the BC HealthFiles on botulism online (www.bchealthguide.org/healthfiles). BCCDC is also urging consumers that if they have one of the 120 ml. jars of watermelon jelly, to discard it immediately.
For more information on Botulism please visit the BCCDC’s Botulism page.