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Homemade food responsible for botulism outbreak in Denmark

An outbreak of foodborne botulism in Denmark, with six confirmed cases, has been linked to a homemade dish served at a private party in June.

Fødevarestyrelsen (Danish Veterinary and Food Administration) said a sample from the homemade dish was positive with botulinum toxin type A. The same type was identified in the patients.

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All six confirmed infections and one possible case attended a private party in Danish town Sønderborg in June and were later hospitalized. DVFA said investigations are ongoing to find out how the toxin developed in the dish.

Statens Serum Institut (SSI), an agency under the Danish Ministry of Health, confirmed the diagnosis in patients. A statement from DVFA reported the agency took samples for analysis from leftovers at the private households involved.

“Since it was a homemade dish served at a private party, it is outside of our jurisdiction to take action. With homemade dishes, it is very hard to fully investigate, since we don’t have the same data as with in a professional kitchen,” the agency told Food Safety News.

“We have gone through a series of investigational steps concerning the ingredients used in the dish to ensure that no commercially available food items on the market could be suspected of being unsafe.

“With the last results still coming in, we have no information so far that could indicate that general food safety is jeopardized.”

Clostridium botulinum is a bacterium that produces botulinum toxins. Foodborne botulism is caused by consumption of improperly processed food. Homemade canned, preserved or fermented foods are common sources. Botulinum toxin type A is normally not related to fish or maritime products.

Symptoms are caused by the toxin produced by the bacterium. They usually appear within 12 to 36 hours — with a range of four hours to eight days — after exposure. The toxin affects multiple systems in the body, including paralyzing muscles. Most patients require intubation because muscles used for breathing are usually paralyzed.

Meanwhile, there have been 53 cases of botulism and four deaths so far this year in Ukraine, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Serum manufactured in Canada has been transferred to a warehouse of the Ministry of Health in Ukraine for use on patients. The Ministry of Health said botulism risk factors include consumption of dried, salted and canned fish and conditions of storage and transportation of food.

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