One person died and eight people were hospitalized after an outbreak of botulism at a restaurant in the French city of Bordeaux, according to a statement from France’s public health body on Wednesday.
Two less serious cases were also identified, according to local health authorities.
It is believed that the diners ate sardines in a homemade oil preserve, which was contaminated with botulism bacteria. They all dined at the Tchin Tchin wine bar from Sept. 4 to 10, Public Health France said.
According to CNN affiliate BFMTV, the customer who died was a woman in her thirties who was visiting Bordeaux with her partner, who is still in intensive care.
Botulism is a paralyzing nerve toxin, considered one of the most powerful and lethal substances in the world.
It is produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum and sometimes by strains of Clostridium butyricum and Clostridium baratii. Rod-shaped bacteria are commonly found in soil and sediments of lakes, rivers, and oceans.
Bacteria thrive in low-oxygen conditions, such as canned foods, deep wounds, and the intestinal tract, but when threatened they form protective spores with a hard coating that allows them to survive for years.
Thierry Touzet, deputy director of the Gironde civil protection authority, told reporters on Wednesday that the restaurant will remain closed for “the next few days, if not weeks,” following talks with the owner to facilitate cleaning and disinfection of the premises.
“They have considered closing for a longer period to do all of these operations, and also to train in food preservation techniques,” Touzet said.
“Overall, the establishment was well maintained, however, there was a real problem in the food preservation process,” he said, adding that the owner has been asked to no longer manufacture canned fish.
He added that nine jars of sardines were served during the week the infections were identified, and about 25 people may have eaten the fish.
France’s public health agency has warned anyone who visited the restaurant and showed any symptoms of botulism to seek medical help immediately. These symptoms can include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, blurred or double vision, and dry mouth accompanied by difficulty swallowing or even speaking.
Treatment of severe botulism infections may involve assisted breathing in intensive care. However, rapid treatment with antitoxins after the onset of symptoms can shorten hospitalization periods.
Botulism can be fatal in 5-10% of cases, according to Public Health France.
Bordeaux, in southwestern France, is known for its history and its wine. The city is popular with tourists and also hosts matches in the current Rugby World Cup.
CNN has contacted the Bordeaux prosecutor and the Tchin Tchin wine bar for comment.
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