The owner of a restaurant in France linked to a botulism outbreak is facing charges in relation to the incident.
In September 2023, during the Rugby World Cup, foodborne botulism affected 16 people in Bordeaux. Sick people came from Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
One Greek woman died at her home in France in mid-September. Patients reported consuming locally produced canned sardines at Tchin Tchin Wine Bar restaurant.
The Bordeaux public prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into charges including involuntary homicide, endangering the lives of others, failure to assist a person in danger, and sale of corrupt or toxic foodstuffs. Penalties could range from fines to prison time.
Investigations highlighted breaches of hygiene rules by the manager of the establishment, in particular with regards to the preparation of artisanal preserves sold to customers, according to a statement from Frédérique Porterie, public prosecutor in Bordeaux.
The public prosecutor’s office requested placement under judicial supervision and a ban on the suspect carrying out, as a manager or operator, any activity related to catering.
Investigations looking into the medical care of patients in the Bordeaux and Paris regions are also ongoing.
All suspected patients visited the same restaurant in Bordeaux on different dates and consumed canned marinated sardines. These were part of a batch made by the restaurant on Sept. 1 and served between Sept. 1 and 10. Several cases reported a bad taste or smell from the product marinated in oil and herbs.
People fell sick between Sept. 5 to 12. The median age of patients was 36 but ranged from 30 to 70. Seven cases were female, and eight were male. Thirteen were hospitalized, with six requiring invasive mechanical ventilation.
Inspectors visited the restaurant, and while they did not identify any deviations in food storage, they noted incorrect sterilization techniques in the preparation of canned food.
Sardine samples from five jars tested positive for type B Botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) and type B Clostridium botulinum. All other food samples, including marinade ingredients, were negative.
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 — particularly of muscles used for breathing — a thick-feeling tongue, dry mouth, and muscle weakness.
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