Pesto suspected in Italian botulism case

A type of pesto has been linked to a case of foodborne botulism in Italy.

The laboratory confirmed case of botulism occurred in Rome and was reported by Italian officials this week. No details were given about the condition of the patient.

An epidemiological investigation has placed suspicion on a Sicilian broccoli and almond pesto.

The label on the jar stated it was packed by La fattoria biodinamica in the city of Viterbo but the product did not have a batch number or expiration date.

Food has been analyzed by the Italian National Institute of Health (ISS) and found to be negative for botulinum toxins.

Officials believe it was a gift
It is currently believed that the product was given as a gift about two months earlier.

Following investigations by local authorities at the farm, it was found that the pesto was made for self-consumption and beginning in November 2021 the production was suspended.

It was not possible to trace the number of jars of Sicilian broccoli and almond pesto produced or how many could have been given away.

Italian officials advised people not to consume the implicated pesto, possibly received as a gift, and told them to pay attention to any non-compliant labeling.

Italy has one of the highest rates of foodborne botulism in Europe, according to a study published in the journal Food Control. This work found that out of 2,187 samples provided by food businesses for their own control protocols, 16 were positive for the presence of botulinum neurotoxin-producing clostridia, including dairy products, fruit, vegetables, sauces, bakery products, meat products, and spices and flavorings.

Botulism is a rare but life-threatening condition caused by toxins produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. In foodborne botulism, symptoms generally begin 18 to 36 hours after eating a contaminated food. However, they can start as soon as six hours after or up to 10 days later.

It can cause symptoms including general weakness, dizziness, double-vision, and trouble with speaking or swallowing. It paralyzes respiratory muscles so most patients must be placed on life support. Difficulty in breathing, weakness of other muscles, abdominal distention and constipation may also occur. People experiencing these problems should seek immediate medical attention.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)