Ten probable cases of foodborne botulism have been reported in France, according to regional health authorities.

An American is believed to be among those affected and one person has died.

The Nouvelle Aquitaine Regional Health Authority (ARS) reported that six people are being treated at Bordeaux University Hospital for various neurological or digestive symptoms. They will be given an antitoxin.

Most patients are of foreign nationality, including an American, a Canadian, and a German. They all went to the same bar in Bordeaux, the Tchin Tchin Wine Bar, in the past week.

Santé publique France advised people that had been to the bar between Sept. 4 and 10 to be on the lookout for symptoms.

Sardines suspected as source
Early suspicions at this stage have fallen on homemade canned sardines in oil served at the restaurant.

Given the incubation period and serious potential symptoms, health officials urged people who had visited the bar to be extremely vigilant and to seek medical attention if they have symptoms.

Botulinum poisoning 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 contaminated food. However, they can occur as soon as six hours or up to 10 days later. Symptoms may include double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing or breathing, paralysis, a thick-feeling tongue, dry mouth, and muscle weakness

Authorities in Gironde carried out investigations at the site and took 10 samples to search for botulinum toxins and other issues. Analysis will be undertaken by l’Institut Pasteur and results are expected in the coming days.

Officials also asked the outlet to restrict its activity to serving wine and snacks which are not likely to present a botulinum risk, until further notice.

A recent study published in the journal Frontiers Public Health found 82 foodborne botulism outbreaks in France between 2008 and 2018 which affected 159 people.

The annual number of outbreaks ranged from three to 13 and cases per year from four to 25. The largest outbreak had six patients.

Identification of contaminated food was possible in 41 outbreaks. The most common items involved were canned foods and homemade products. The two main sources were raw ham and canned vegetables. Smoked fish, salted fish and ground (minced) meat, were also linked to outbreaks.

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