Botulism Toxin
© James Cavallini/Science SourceThe botulism toxin comes from Clostridium botulinum bacteria, seen here in a colorized micrograph.
A widespread botulism outbreak in Russia has left one person dead and scores hospitalized after consuming contaminated readymade salads, according to authorities.

Botulism is a rare but severe illness caused by a toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. The toxin can lead to paralysis, breathing difficulties, and death. Common sources include improperly canned, preserved, or fermented foods. Symptoms of botulism include severe abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, blurred vision, dry mouth, difficulty swallowing or speaking, and neurological issues.

Over 300 people have been hospitalized in this significant outbreak. By comparison, the U.S. records about 110 botulism cases annually, and the European Union recorded only 82 cases in 2021, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

Comment: Which makes this a rather significant outbreak.

Russian authorities attribute the outbreak to ready-to-eat salads containing canned beans produced by a popular delivery service. Since mid-June, cases have been reported in Moscow, the surrounding Moscow region, Nizhny Novgorod, and Kazan.

This week, an aide to Russia's Health Minister Alexei Kuznetsov reported that 369 people were hospitalized with botulism symptoms. Of these, 218 remain hospitalized, including 38 on ventilators, while 151 have been discharged. A 21-year-old man from Kostroma died after consuming a contaminated salad in Nizhny Novgorod.

Health officials initially linked the outbreak to two brands of readymade salads. Russia's public health agency, Rospotrebnadzor, halted the sale of these salads pending investigation. Within days, authorities identified the culprit as a salad made and sold by Kukhnya Na Rayone, a popular delivery service in Moscow, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, and other cities. Kukhnya Na Rayone has suspended operations, discontinued the implicated salad, and pledged to review its other products.

A criminal investigation has been launched for producing and distributing unsafe products. Authorities have detained two top managers of Kukhnya Na Rayone, the head of the company that makes the canned beans, and a cook from the same company. The cook is in custody pending investigation and trial, while the other three are under house arrest.