Health Canada is reminding Canadians that the consumption of certain whole salted fish products like fesikh, a traditional dish in the Egyptian community, represents an increased risk of botulism.

The fish used to make these specific salted fish dishes are not gutted before the ripening and salting process. This provides an opportunity for Clostridium botulinum bacteria that may be in the gut of the fish to grow and produce the toxins that cause botulism. These toxins are not eliminated by any smoking or drying of the end product. Refrigeration, freezing, washing, and open air or vacuum packaging will not make the fish safe. This applies to whole fish, fillets or parts.

The most recent botulism outbreak in Canada caused by the consumption of fesikh was in 2012. Internationally, the consumption of ungutted salted fish, including fesikh, has been linked to many cases of botulism.

Food contaminated with Clostridium botulinum toxin may not look or smell spoiled. Symptoms of botulism can include nausea and/or vomiting followed by one or more of: double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, dry mouth, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, weakness, respiratory failure and paralysis. In severe cases, death can occur. Symptoms generally begin 12 to 36 hours after eating a contaminated food, but they can occur as early as six hours or as late as 10 days after eating. If you are experiencing similar symptoms, please contact your health professional.