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Watermelon Jelly Linked to Botulism in Canada

One person is ill and the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control in Canada is warning the public not to eat watermelon jelly sold last year at charity booths because it may be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium that can cause life-threatening botulism.

“This recall was prompted by a suspect case of botulism on Vancouver Island, and the subsequent investigation of foods recently consumed by the individual,” Dr. Eleni Galanis, Physician Epidemiologist with BCCDC, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, said in a news release Tuesday. “Botulism is a serious illness, and it is critical that anyone who purchased this item discard it immediately.”

Jamnation Fine Foods sold the watermelon jelly in 120 ml sized jars at charity booths in various locations in British Columbia in 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,” explained Sion Shyng, Food Safety Specialist at the BCCDC.  “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.”

The BCCDC is working with BC Health Authorities and the BC Ministry of Health Services to ensure the recalled product is removed from distribution and is investigating any possible cases of illness.

“The BCCDC Public Health Microbiology and Reference Laboratory is one of the few laboratories in Canada capable of conducting tests for botulism,” said Dr. Judy Isaac-Renton, Medical Microbiologist and Public Health Laboratory Director. “Public health works closely with physicians on all potential cases of botulism, and any need for laboratory tests have to be approved by public health laboratory experts.”

“The signs and symptoms of botulism cover a wide spectrum,” notes Dr. Galanis. “Symptoms can begin anywhere from six hours to one week after someone has eaten food containing the toxin.”

Symptoms may include blurred vision, slurred speech, and difficulty in swallowing – as well as muscle paralysis that moves progressively down the body, affecting the arms first, then the legs. Botulism can also trigger paralysis of the breathing muscles, which can result in death unless assistance with breathing is provided.

Anyone who has consumed this product and has symptoms compatible with botulism should call the 24-hour HealthLink BC Line at 811, contact your physician, or view the BC HealthFiles on botulism at www.bchealthguide.org/healthfiles.

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