At least nine cases of foodborne botulism have been reported in Vietnam with a link to a brand of pate. All patients have required hospitalization.

People reported eating Minh Chay pate products, which have been recalled nationally, according to the Vietnam Food Administration.

All patients have been hospitalized – five at Cho Ray Hospital and two each at Bach Mai Hospital and Ho Chi Minh Hospital for Tropical Diseases. They became ill from mid-July through Aug. 18.

Initial test results of some Minh Chay pate products, made by Loi Song Moi Company, from different batches detected Clostridium botulinum type B. Patient samples were also positive for Clostridium botulinum.

Incident timeline
On Aug. 19, the Department of Food Safety at the Ministry of Health received a call from the Poison Control Center at Bach Mai Hospital about a couple of people initially diagnosed with suspected food poisoning caused by Botulinum toxin. Both of these patients had Minh Chay pate products with the last time being at the end of July.

On the same day, the Department of Food Safety asked the Hanoi Food Safety and Hygiene Department to work with local authorities to investigate and verify the information.

One day later, the production facility in Dong Anh Town, Hanoi was inspected and issues were found at the company with sanitary conditions such as factory cleaning and drainage. The inspection team told the Health Department of Dong Anh district to suspend production at the firm until problems were fixed and they also took samples of the products.

Patient samples and pate from those being treated at Bach Mai Hospital also became available. Both were positive for Clostridium botulinum and results pointed to contamination during the production process.

Company response
A statement from the company started by apologizing to customers.

“As a brand that comes from a family with a 30-year vegetarian tradition with the desire to convey vegetarian values to the community, Minh Chay always complies with the law. The safety of our customers is Minh Chay’s top priority, we are extremely grateful for your support,” it read.

“Immediately after receiving the direction and guidance of the authorities, we stopped all business and production activities of Minh Chay to coordinate with the authorities to investigate and clarify the cause as well as focus a maximum on customer support resources.”

Botulism is a rare but life-threatening condition caused by toxins produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. In foodborne botulism, symptoms generally begin 18 to 36 hours after eating a contaminated food. However, they can start as soon as six hours after or up to 10 days later.

It can cause symptoms including general weakness, dizziness, double-vision, and trouble with speaking or swallowing. It paralyzes respiratory muscles so most patients must be placed on life support. Difficulty in breathing, weakness of other muscles, abdominal distention and constipation may also occur. People experiencing these problems should seek immediate medical attention.

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