Botulism Outbreak Investigation

Botulism Outbreak Investigation

One of the strategies to prevent botulism is through using a pressure cooker while preparing vegetables at home. A pressure cooker allows the vegetables to attain a temperature above the boiling point of water, < 100 degrees centigrade (Ranković et al., 2017). Heating above the temperature ensures that the botulism spores are dead. Botulism spores are heat resistant, and therefore, they require commercial heat that is above that of boiling water to die. Vegetables are the primary source of the spores, and that is why chefs should specially prepare them through excess heating. Home canned vegetables were one of the primary cause of the botulism outbreak at the event meaning that those preparing did not use the right temperature. Most homemade canned vegetables use a hot water bath in preparation which does not have enough temperature to kill the spores. The spores later produce a toxin which affects people.

Another strategy to prevent the outbreak at the ceremony was through warming the food before eating or placing it on the refrigerator for some time before eating. Botulism spores cannot die with warming or keeping on the fridge. However, one can inactivate the toxin they produce by heating to a temperature of 80 degrees centigrade or lowering to zero degrees Celsius (Ranković et al., 2017). Most of the food in ceremonies are kept and served below the temperature of 80 and above zero degrees centigrade that keeps the toxin active. In the event, some drinks were not stored in ice meaning that their temperature was above zero and below 80 creating a good environment for the toxin to survive. Also, the canned vegetables were not placed in a refrigerator. Refrigeration of the vegetables would have ensured that there are no toxins produced by the existing spores.

Smoked fish is another source of the toxin, and therefore, people should prepare them thoroughly before consumption. Pork, potatoes crisp and beans are also sources of the spores.  Such foods require special preparation to either destroy the spores or inactivate the toxin. The preparation can include the addition of Gallic or other acidic species. Botulism spores do not survive in acidic conditions and therefore, raising the acidic level of the smoked fish and pork would destroy them (Ranković et al., 2017). The subjects could also have warmed the fish, beans, and pork for around 10 minutes before eating to ensure that the toxin is inactive in case it is present.

Another way the subjects could have prevented the botulism outbreak is through consumption of soft drinks and alcohol and mostly the ones on the ice. Softy drinks and alcohol are acidic, and they could have killed any consumed spores in the food (Ranković et al., 2017). Iced drinks, on the other hand, would create a very low-temperature environment in the stomach to inactivate the toxin. The subjects in the interview mentioned that they only took one bottle of alcohol which could not have supplied enough acid to destroy the spores. Those in the ceremony could have also avoided canned meat in cans that were bulging, broken or producing unfavorable smells. Canned food substances are susceptible to the spores, and therefore, any contaminated one should be avoided.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011), clean preparation area and utensils is one of the primary strategies for preventing most of the diseases. Thorough cleaning of the tools while preparing the canned vegetables at home was also essential to prevent the spores. The botulism spores exist in dirty places and contaminated water. While washing dishes with the dirty water, they can become contaminated and affect the serving utensils well those used to serve (Barkley, & Viveiros, 2016). It is essential to be careful with the preparation of the canned vegetables at home because they are a significant source of the spores and dirty water and utensils can increase the risk.



Barkley, J., & Viveiros, B. (2016). Preventing foodborne and enteric illnesses among at-risk populations in the United States and Rhode Island. Rhode Island Medical Journal99(11), 25.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Principles of epidemiology in public health practice: Self-study course(3rd ed.). Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Ranković, A., Vrbić, M., Jovanović, M., Popović-Dragonjić, L., & Ranković, G. N. (2017). Our experience in the treatment of botulism. Vojnosanitetski Pregled: Military Medical & Pharmaceutical Journal of Serbia, 74(9), 891–895.