A woman died in France from botulism after eating sardines at a restaurant last week and 12 other people were in treatment for the rare condition, health officials said Wednesday.
Botulism is a serious neurological illness typically brought on by eating food that has been improperly preserved.
The restaurant in Bordeaux, southwestern France, had preserved the sardines itself, the DGS health authority said late Tuesday.
The nationality of the dead woman, aged 32, has not yet been determined, a source close to the case said.
A doctor at the Pellegrin hospital in Bordeaux, Benjamin Clouzeau, said 12 more people were still receiving emergency treatment early Wednesday. Five of them were on respiratory support.
The group included American, Irish and Canadian nationals, he said.
A German national travelled home for treatment, as did a resident of Barcelona, Spain, the doctor said.
All of them had eaten at the restaurant, the “Tchin Tchin Wine Bar” in Bordeaux, between September 4 and 10 when there are typically large numbers of tourists in the town, famous for its wine and food.
They all ate sardines that had been stored by the restaurant owner himself in jars, the DGS said.
Botulism is deadly in five to 10 percent of cases because of a toxin generated by clostridium botulinum bacteria that can appear when preserved food is insufficiently sterilised.
Authorities were still running tests at the restaurant, the DGS said, adding it could not rule out the emergence of further cases of botulism which has an incubation period of up to several days.
It can cause muscle paralysis lasting several weeks, with the most immediate danger stemming from affected respiratory muscles.
Local newspaper Sud-Ouest quoted the restaurant owner as saying that he had thrown out some of the jars containing sardines because of a “strong smell” emanating from the containers when he opened them.
But others “appeared in good condition and were served up to customers”, he said.
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