UPDATE: New Evidence Confirmed Regarding Nine Suspected Cases Of Botulism In Spain

Image of a tortilla.

Image of a tortilla. Credit: Shutterstock.com/ VasiliyBudarin

UPDATE: Tuesday, July 25 at 4:30 pm

It has been confirmed by SEIMC, the Spanish Society of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Microbiology that all the patients affected by the botulism outbreak in Spain had one thing in common.

On Monday 24, the entity concluded that all nine consumed the exact same brand of pre-cooked potato tortillas without preserving or cooking them correctly.

Javier Membrillo, the vice president and spokesman for the Seimc, confirmed to 20minutos: ‘In all the cases under investigation by the Ministry of Health, their history includes not only the consumption of the tortilla but also the poor conservation or the absence of the final cooking of that tortilla’.

A meeting of health experts was held on Monday

He participated this Monday in the meeting of experts on botulism convened by the General Directorate of Public Health of the Ministry of Health. They shared data and provided opinions on the management of symptoms and the treatment of patients in the tortilla outbreak.

Foodborne botulism disease occurs because a bacterium produces the toxin if the food is not well preserved and not well cooked he explained. “Even if that tortilla had suffered a problem in the manufacturing chain, if it is heated correctly, the toxin is inactivated’, the expert added.

‘One of those affected in the outbreak left the tortilla at room temperature for nine days and ate it without cooking’, he revealed.

The Seimc spokesman confirmed to the news outlet that there were nine patients in the outbreak, four of them suspected, with several serious and in the ICU. However, he considered that a prudential time has passed and believed that many more cases will not appear.

No botulinum toxin has been found in the tortillas of Grupo Palacios

At least until Monday, the Ministry of Health has failed to find botulinum toxin in the tortillas of Grupo Palacios. The company ceased its production and withdrew its fresh tortilla from all establishments due to the AESAN alert.

Experts said that it would be ‘difficult’ to microbiologically prove the tortillas were the cause of the poisoning because the company makes more than 100,000 a day.

What has already been proven, to this day, they indicate, is ‘an epidemiological relationship of coincident pictures due to incorrect consumption of pre-cooked food’.

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UPDATE: Monday, July 24 at 11:58 pm

Two more probable suspected cases of botulism have been detected in Spain according to the Ministry of Health this Monday, July 24. That brings the total to nine, with five of them already confirmed.

These two latest cases are again linked to the consumption of packaged potato tortillas. They are a 48-year-old male from Madrid who first showed symptoms last Saturday.

The second is a 63-year-old man from Andalucia who first displayed symptoms on July 14, as reported in an update today by the Health Alerts and Emergencies Coordination Centre (CCAES).

There are four ‘probable’ cases

A 27-year-old male from Malaga is also still among the four probable cases, along with another person from the Valencian Community.

All four have presented: ‘compatible symptoms and a history of consumption of suspicious food from the brand involved’, namely the Palacios Group.

Although the company has not yet been found to be responsible, it has removed its products from circulation as a preventative measure, according to 20minutos.es.

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Saturday, July 22 at 0:46 am

ANOTHER suspected case of botulism is being studied on the Costa del Sol, this time in the municipality of Benalmádena.

As reported by the Ministry of Health and Consumption of the Junta de Andalucía this Friday, July 21, a 63-year-old man presented symptoms of the disease on July 14, according to laopiniondemalaga.es.

He was not admitted to any hospital but samples were taken from him which were sent to the National Centre for Microbiology in Madrid for study and evaluation.

This latest suspected case follows that of a 27-year-old Malaga resident who displayed similar symptoms earlier this month, again without being hospitalised. The case was suspected of being linked to packaged potato tortillas sold in different supermarkets across the country.

The Andalucian Government praised the ‘fundamental’ work of the Surveillance Network – dependent on the General Directorate of Public Health and Pharmaceutical Regulation – for its early detection of possible cases.

Botulism is a relatively rare disease

Botulism is a serious but relatively rare disease caused by toxins produced by Clostridium botulinum. There are three clinical forms of botulism. There is the classic or foodborne botulism, intestinal botulism, and wound botulism. All three give rise to flaccid paralysis due to the action of botulinum neurotoxin at the neuromuscular junction.

Up until Thursday 20, AESAN, the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition, had reported seven cases with a history of the consumption of packaged potato tortillas by each patient. It issued an updated statement.

Five cases were confirmed after laboratory tests

Five of the cases were confirmed by a laboratory with the date of the onset of symptoms fluctuating between June 24 and July 10.

The cases occurred in several autonomous communities of Spain. Each of the corresponding public health services was informed through the Report on Alerts and Preparedness and Response Plans, to reinforce their early detection in the event of the appearance of new cases of suspected botulism if they occur.

AESAN transferred all of the available information to the contact points of the relevant communities. This was done so that they could carry out pertinent investigations in relation to the products that could have been consumed by any of the patients involved.

In at least three of the confirmed cases and in one of the probable ones, the company that makes the tortillas is the same.

It has not been proven that the tortillas are at fault

To date, it has not been possible to establish evidence, neither in the products nor in the processes, that relates cause and effect. However, investigations continue with the collaboration of the production company.

As a result, the Palacios Alimentación Business Group has voluntarily decided, as a precaution, to remove the freshly packaged potato omelette produced in the Mudrian factory shelves of the points of sale.

It has also decided to temporarily stop its manufacture, by associating this product with the confirmed botulism cases in recent days.

The company has taken all necessary measures to detect a possible cause. Their facilities have already been inspected four times by the health authorities with favourable results.

The business group has urged all consumers who purchased one of these products – Palacios, Chef Select, Auchan, Eroski, Unide, Consum, DIA, Ametller, Condis, El Corte Ingles, Carrefour, Alipende, Grupo IFA and Rikissimo – to refrain from consuming them and to return it to the point of sale where they purchased it, where the amount will be refunded.

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com

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