The Food Standards Agency is reporting on an outbreak from pastes contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium behind the deadly botulism disease. The product has not been distributed within the UK but caution is exercised if the affected products were purchased by anyone visiting France. Meanwhile in France the products have been withdrawn from market. The bacterium grows well if allowed to contaminate certain meat and fish products that have been processed or packaged to exclude oxygen, which is actually toxic to the organism. It then produces a toxin that, if consumed, can culminate in neural paralysis and lead to death in about 40-50% of cases. For those lucky enough to pull through, the convalescence period can be many months. It is a very unusual outbreak – they are very rare. The cause will certainly be investigated by the French authorities. Such contamination is normally caused by a breakdown of a HACCP food safety management system, or failure to review such a system when changes are made to the processing operation. If this is found to be the case then it points again to the importance of an audited, reviewed and validated HACCP plan, a procedure which is mandatory not only under food hygiene legislation but also for the common global food safety standards such as BRC Global Standards, IFS and ISO 22000. Read about the outbreak here –

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