After discovery outbreak of foodborne botulism in different parts of Spain The preventive medicine service of the Ourense University Hospital Complex (CHUO), including the province, pays special attention to hygiene recommendations and food preservation to prevent diseases. Division head Maria Sande explains that the pathology is due to ingestion of toxins contained in “poorly preserved” foods, so following the recommendations for food preservation and storage is key.
seven cases identified so far across the country (four confirmed and three probable) are associated with the consumption of pre-cooked potato tortillas purchased by the Palacios Alimentación group. Faced with this type of commercially processed and packaged product, Sande points out the importance follow the instructions on the label in relation to conservation: “For example, refrigeration, indications for use or expiration date.”
On the other hand, in homemade preparations, the Head of Prevention asks special attention to products with low acidity and high sugar content: Legumes or vegetables pose a greater risk of containing toxins. “For this reason, it is important to observe very strict hygiene rules, both when preparing and storing food,” he emphasizes. Sande points out that hygiene conditions they must also cover the area where food is handled. In this sense, the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (Aesan) offers a number of recommendations, such as throwing away damaged parts, washing food with potable water (or even food bleach), or using containers that are resistant to high temperatures (because they must be boiled before canning). From the essence they warn of difficulties in detecting the presence of toxins in the reservesince it does not change the properties of the food (color, taste, smell or texture), prevention is therefore the most effective measure to avoid contracting the disease.
symptoms Food botulism begins with weakness and fatigue, as well as blurred vision, double vision, dizziness, or difficulty speaking or swallowing as the cranial nerves are affected. “When presenting these symptoms, we should be concerned because the nerve palsy that starts in the skull is descending and, if it affects the respiratory muscles, can cause the victim to stop,” Sande elaborates. For this reason, it is common for patients to be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) for any suspicion of botulism – of the seven cases identified so far during the potato tortilla outbreak, three required this type of treatment.
The head of preventive medicine says it’s serious pathology and warning of its lethality: “It’s potentially fatal in 5 or 10% of cases.” However, the doctor notes that this is a “relatively rare” disease in Spain.
The Ministry of Health is closely monitoring the seven identified cases
First warning of a possible outbreak of botulism arrived at the Ministry of Health from the European Union on July 11, after two cases were identified in Italy with a common precedent: eating packaged flatbread while in Spain. The Coordinating Center for Health Alerts and Emergencies (Ccaes) informed the autonomous communities of the alert, and more cases began to be identified in the following days. “Suspicion of botulism is a disease that requires urgent notification, and in case of suspicion, we immediately proceed to notify Sanidade of the situation,” explains Maria Sande. The information reaches the Ministry of Health, which in turn shares it with the European Center for Disease Control. “Information is being passed on so that we can all be alert to the emergence of possible cases,” he says.
The Ministry of Health in this sense supports epidemiological monitoring patients, in addition to investigating the origin of the pathology. All samples from identified cases are processed at the National Center for Microbiology, which is also in constant communication with CDEC. For its part, the Palacios Group voluntarily withdrew the packaged potato cake from retail outlets, and also temporarily paralyzed its production.