Foodborne Botulism Infections Are Potentially Fatal
Botulism is a rare and serious illness caused by a toxin that attacks the body’s nerves and causes difficulty breathing, muscle paralysis, and even death. This toxin is made by Clostridium botulinum, Clostridium butyricum and Clostridium baratii bacteria. These bacteria can be spread by food and sometimes by other means.
The bacteria that make the botulinum toxin are found naturally in many places. These bacteria make spores, which act like protective coatings. The spores help the bacteria survive in different environments, even in extreme conditions. The spores usually do not cause people to become sick, but under certain conditions, these spores can grow and develop into a lethal toxin.
Common Sources of Foodborne Botulism
The most common sources of botulism are homemade foods that have been improperly preserved, canned, or fermented. If they are improperly stored, store-bought foods can also be contaminated with the botulinum toxin.
Home-canned vegetables are the most common cause of botulism outbreaks in the U.S. each year.
From 1996 to 2014, there were over 200 outbreaks reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of the 145 outbreaks that were caused by home-prepared foods, around 30 percent were from home-canned vegetables. Outbreaks often occur because home canners do not follow canning instructions, fail to use pressure canners, or ignore signs of food spoilage.
Particular affected foods include home-canned foods with a low acid content, fermented fish, herb-infused oils, baked potatoes in aluminum foil, cheese sauce, bottled garlic, honey, corn syrup, and foods held warm for extended periods of time.
Common Symptoms Associated with Botulism
Symptoms of botulism usually start with weakness of the muscles that control the eyes, face, mouth, and throat. This weakness may spread to the neck, arms, torso, and legs. Botulism also can weaken the muscles involved in breathing, which can lead to difficulty breathing and even death. Other symptoms include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty speaking
- Dry mouth
- Facial weakness
- General muscle weakness
- Blurred or double vision
- Drooping eyelids
- Trouble breathing
- Nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps
Infants with botulism may show the following signs and symptoms:
- Appearing lethargic
- Feeding poorly
- Are constipated
- Have a weak cry
- Have poor muscle tone
Almost all symptoms result from muscle paralysis caused by the toxin. When untreated, the disease progresses and symptoms worsen and can cause total paralysis of certain muscles, including those used in breathing and those in the arms and legs.
People with botulism may not show all symptoms at once. In foodborne botulism, symptoms generally begin 18 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food. In rare cases, symptoms may begin as soon as 6 hours after ingesting toxins or up to 10 days later. The incubation period for infants may be 3 to 30 days.
If you or a loved one has suffered from Botulism or another a foodborne infection, and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care in Ohio, contact The Lyon Firm at (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions.