Published On: Thu, Jul 26th, 2012

Italian olives linked to botulism case in the UK

Health officials in the UK have confirmed the presence of botulinum toxin in a jar of Italian olives after a Oxfordshire resident was admitted to the hospital  after developing botulism.

This event prompted the British Food Standards Agency (FSA) to issue a Food Alert for Action.


According to a Health Protection Agency (HPA) news release Wednesday, the implicated olives are “Olive Bella Di Cerignola” produced by ‘I Divini’. These are large green olives from the Puglia region of Italy and are packaged in brine in glass jars with a lot number of 161/11 and best before date of 10/06/2014. This type of olive is distributed under a number of different brand names but only the I DIVINI di Chicco Francesco brand is associated with this incident.

Investigations are focusing on delicatessen shops where this product could be on sale.

Botulism is a rare disease in the UK with only33 cases reported in the past 23 years, 27 of the cases were linked to a single outbreak.

Food borne botulism is a severe intoxication caused by eating the preformed toxin present in contaminated food.

Food borne botulism occurs when the bacterium Clostridium botulinum is allowed to grow and produce toxin in food that is later eaten without sufficient heating or cooking to inactivate the toxin. Botulinum toxin is one of the most potent neurotoxins known.

Growth of this anaerobic bacteria and the formation of the toxin tend to happen in products with low acidity and oxygen content and low salt and sugar content. Inadequately processed, home-canned foods like asparagus, green beans, beets, and corn have commonly been implicated.

However, there have been outbreaks of botulism from more unusual sources such as chopped garlic in oil, chili peppers, improperly handled baked potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil and home-canned or fermented fish. Garden foods like tomatoes, which used to be considered too acidic for the growth of Clostridium botulinum, is now considered a potentially hazardous food in home canning.

Though more common in home-canned foods, it does happen occasionally in commercially prepared foods.

Typically in a few hours to several days after you eat the contaminated food you will start to show the classic symptoms; blurred vision, dry mouth, and difficulty in swallowing. Gastrointestinal symptoms may or may not occur. If untreated, the paralysis always descends through the body starting at the shoulders and working its way down.

The most serious complication of botulism is respiratory failure where it is fatal in up to 10% of people. It may take months before recovery is complete.

If the disease is caught early enough it can be treated with antitoxin. If paralysis and respiratory failure happen, the person may be on a ventilator for several weeks.

The FSA is asking people who have bought the implicated jar of olives not to eat them and contact their local authority environmental health food safety team who will arrange collection of the product.

The person taken ill with botulism is recovering in hospital. No other cases of illness have been reported.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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