French-Made Tomato Paste Poses Botulism Risk, FDA Warns

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just issued a warning to not consume tapenade or spreadable dried tomato paste manufactured by the French food company La Ruche. French health authorities reported an outbreak of botulism in France linked to La Ruche’s products sold under the brand names “Les délices de Marie-Claire,” “Terre de Mistral,” and Les Secrets d’Anaïs.”

Currently, eight adults are suffering from respiratory failure as a result of eating La Ruche foods containing the neurotoxin produced by Clostridium botulinum. Clostridium botulinum spores can cause Botulism, a very serious and potentially fatal, potentially paralytic foodborne illness.

The French authorities have ordered production be halted at La Ruche’s facility in France and have directed that all products sold under those brand names be recalled.

These La Ruche products are considered a severe threat to public health and should not be eaten. If consumers purchased any of these products, either while traveling in France or online, they are to be disposed of. If consumers have recently eaten any of these potentially contaminated products and have symptoms of botulism, they are advised to see their healthcare provider immediately.

The FDA said it has no indication that these La Ruche products have been imported into the U.S. and also said it has no information that this outbreak has affected anyone in the U.S. The FDA has also increased its monitoring of shipments from this area of the world and has issued a bulletin to its Field Offices to be vigilant in this area.

Botulism symptoms can include general weakness, dizziness, double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech and trouble with speaking or swallowing, and dry mouth. Difficulty in breathing; weakness of other muscles—for instance, muscle weakness that starts at the shoulders and moves progressively down the body—abdominal distension, and constipation may also be common symptoms. Infants with botulism appear lethargic, feed poorly, are constipated, and have a weak cry and poor muscle tone; this all relates to the muscle paralysis caused by the bacterial toxin.

If untreated, these symptoms may progress to cause paralysis of the respiratory muscles, arms, legs, and trunk. In foodborne botulism, symptoms generally begin 18 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food, but can occur as early as 6 hours or as late as 10 days. Only a very small amount of this toxin is sufficient to lead to very severe poisoning.

Botulism poisoning is extremely neurotoxic and can cause paralysis of breathing muscles, which can lead to death without treatment and respiratory ventilation in about eight percent of cases. People with compromised immune systems, the elderly, and children have a higher risk for botulism symptoms.

Complications can include infection and aspiration pneumonia, long-term weakness, respiratory distress, and long-term nervous system problems. While antibiotics are often used in treatment, they do not always resolve the foodborne illness.

About 110 cases of botulism occur in the United States annually.

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