Posted 25 February 2020
There is a current recall being conducted at consumer level of certain varieties of canned pilchards manufactured by West Point Processors in South Africa. It is important for consumers to return the particular products as defined by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) in South Africa, to the store where they were purchased.
It appears that some cans were damaged during filling. Such damage can cause microscopic holes (also called pinholes) in the cans, which can hold a potentially serious food safety risk. Canned pilchards as for other canned fish, are regarded as low-acid canned goods. This means that processing is focussed specifically on eliminating the microorganism Clostridium botulinum, which is associated with low-acid canned products if not heat-treated properly. This organism produces the toxin botulin and when ingested causes the disease called botulism. When a can is damaged even after proper processing, this bacterium can enter the can through such pinholes from the external environment and produce the toxin, which can cause serious illness.
Foodborne botulism is extremely rare, but can be severe when contracted. Symptoms are:
- Difficulty swallowing or speaking.
- Dry mouth.
- Facial weakness on both sides of the face.
- Blurred or double vision.
- Drooping eyelids.
- Trouble breathing.
- Nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps.
Signs and symptoms of foodborne botulism typically begin between 12 and 36 hours after the toxin has entered the body. But, depending on how much toxin was consumed, the start of symptoms may range from a few hours (as little as 6 hours) to a few days, sometimes as late as 10 days.
Receiving proper treatment as early as possible is vital. With correct treatment, one can fully recover from foodborne botulism. However, if not treated, the illness can be life-threatening. People receiving treatment recover in about 90% to 95% of cases, whereas it can be fatal to those not treated in 40% to 50% of cases.
Copyrighted 2020 Prof LE Anelich