A large outbreak of botulism: the hazardous baked potato

J Infect Dis. 1998 Jul;178(1):172-7. doi: 10.1086/515615.

Abstract

In April 1994, the largest outbreak of botulism in the United States since 1978 occurred in El Paso, Texas. Thirty persons were affected; 4 required mechanical ventilation. All ate food from a Greek restaurant. The attack rate among persons who ate a potato-based dip was 86% (19/22) compared with 6% (11/176) among persons who did not eat the dip (relative risk [RR] = 13.8; 95% confidence interval [CI], 7.6-25.1). The attack rate among persons who ate an eggplant-based dip was 67% (6/9) compared with 13% (241189) among persons who did not (RR = 5.2; 95% CI, 2.9-9.5). Botulism toxin type A was detected from patients and in both dips. Toxin formation resulted from holding aluminum foil-wrapped baked potatoes at room temperature, apparently for several days, before they were used in the dips. Consumers should be informed of the potential hazards caused by holding foil-wrapped potatoes at ambient temperatures after cooking.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A / analysis
  • Botulism / diagnosis
  • Botulism / epidemiology*
  • Botulism / microbiology
  • Botulism / physiopathology
  • Clostridium botulinum / growth & development
  • Clostridium botulinum / isolation & purification
  • Clostridium botulinum / metabolism
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Electromyography
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Food Microbiology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Solanum tuberosum / microbiology*
  • Texas / epidemiology

Substances

  • Botulinum Toxins, Type A