potato-soup.jpgIn January and April 2011, CDC provided antitoxin for treatment of two persons with toxin type A botulism associated with consumption of potato soup produced by two companies. On January 28, 2011, an Ohio resident, aged 29 years, was hospitalized after 5 days of progressive dizziness, blurred vision, dysphagia, and difficulty breathing. The patient required mechanical ventilation and botulism antitoxin. On January 18, he had tasted potato soup from a bulging plastic container, noted a bad taste, and discarded the remainder. The soup had been purchased on December 7, 2010, from the refrigerated section of a local grocer, but it had been kept unrefrigerated for 42 days. He was hospitalized for 57 days and then was transferred with residual weakness to a rehabilitation facility.

On April 8, 2011, a Georgia resident, aged 41 years, was hospitalized after 4 days of progressive dizziness and dysphagia. The patient developed respiratory distress, required mechanical ventilation, and was treated with botulism antitoxin. On April 3, she had tasted potato soup purchased from a local grocer, noted a sour taste, and discarded the remainder. The soup, stored in a plastic container labeled “keep refrigerated” in letters 1/8 inch tall, had been purchased on March 16, but had been left unrefrigerated for 18 days. She was hospitalized for 16 days and then was transferred with residual weakness to a rehabilitation facility.

Botulism is caused by a paralyzing toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. C. botulinum spores are present in soil and can be found on raw produce, especially potatoes and other root vegetables. If a low-acid food such as potato soup is stored unrefrigerated in an anaerobic environment (e.g., a sealed container), without a barrier to bacterial growth, spores can germinate, resulting in bacterial growth and botulinum toxin production. Because heating food to a temperature of 185°F (85°C) for 5 minutes inactivates the toxin, proper preparation also is an important safeguard.