Studies focus on botulism education in Romania and Italy

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Two studies conducted in different European countries both highlighted the need to improve consumer awareness and education to prevent botulism.

The first study examined epidemiological data on foodborne botulism in western Romania over the past decade. Botulism poisoning is a rare disease caused by toxins produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.

The medical records of a hospital were analyzed from 2010 to 2020 for all cases of food botulism and a test was carried out with anti-botulinum sera of types A, B and E to establish the type of toxin involved.

Domestic hazards
A total of 18 cases of foodborne botulism were hospitalized during this period and were confirmed by laboratory tests, according to the study published in the MDPI Health Review.

The patients were between 19 and 72 years old. Most were men and lived in rural areas. The majority had gastrointestinal symptoms within 12 to 24 hours of consuming contaminated food and all recovered.

Food was not examined, but the main sources were said to have been pork, ham and canned meat. Foods stored at home are put in bottles or cans, and botulism occurs due to improper preparation and improper storage. In Romania, domestic pigs are slaughtered in the winter and the meat is stored, canned and kept at room temperature for a few months before it is consumed.

Romania has experienced a number of outbreaks of foodborne botulism. In 2003, 27 cases including two deaths; in 2004, 18 cases over four months; in 2005, 21 cases in three outbreaks; in 2006, 23 cases and one death in two outbreaks; in 2007, 110 cases with three deaths in five epidemics nationwide; and in 2008, 11 cases in an outbreak.

The study showed a decrease in prevalence each year with the highest number of botulism cases in 2015.

“Botulism can be prevented in high prevalence districts by recognizing culinary and community standards and discouraging local traditions to prevent botulism. Greater efforts should be made to educate the public about the mindfulness of botulism and its associated consequences, and food safety regulators focused on deterrence can help prevent outbreaks, ”the researchers said.

Italian data
Italy has one of the highest incidence rates of foodborne botulism in Europe, according to another study published in the Food control journal.

The researchers studied the occurrences of botulinum neurotoxin-producing clostridia (BoNT) in foods in northern Italy between 2013 and 2020. A total of 2,187 samples were provided by the food companies from their own controls.

Sixteen food samples were positive for the presence of BoNT-producing clostridia, including dairy products, fruits, vegetables, sauces, baked goods, meat products, spices and flavors.

Analysis of biological samples in suspected cases of foodborne botulism was carried out with local hospitals. Of the 52 patients with suspected symptoms of botulism, 18 were confirmed positive.

Food scraps linked to the suspected cases were also analyzed and tested positive in five cases, most of them homemade.

“Our study highlights that foodborne botulism continues to be a public health problem in industrial processing and home-made products, highlighting the importance of consumer education to avoid dangerous botulism outbreaks,” said said the researchers.

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