A rare yet potentially fatal disease could thrive in canned or preserved food, experts warn.
Date Posted: Nov 10, 2014

A rare yet potentially fatal disease could thrive in canned or preserved food, experts warn.


The disease, known as botulism, is caused by ingesting contaminated food containing toxins produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.


This type of bacteria, often found in soil and water, is capable of producing harmful spores and toxin that can thrive in little or no oxygen. Experts say root crops such as potatoes could be susceptible to these bacteria while improperly prepared canned or preserved foods could also serve as habitat.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are relatively low cases of the disease. However, humans who contract the bacteria could suffer serious illness.


Among the symptoms of botulism include fatigue, weakness and vertigo. These early symptoms could be followed by difficulty in swallowing and blurred vision. At certain cases, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal swelling could occur.


Microbiologist Dr. Windell Rivera said extreme cases could occur if the disease is left untreated.


"Maaaring ma-paralyze at makalabo ng paningin. Maaring makabulag ito kung hindi maaagapan (If left untreated, these bacteria could cause paralysis, blurred vision, or even cause blindness)," he said.


Rivera added that the disease is a subtle-type because symptoms of the bacteria do not immediately appear on an infected individual.


"Pwedeng maging dormant for a while hanggang maging suitable ang conditions para mag-grow sila. ([The bacteria] can stay dormant until conditions are suitable for them to grow)."


More often, this type of bacteria is found in ready-to-eat foods rather than cooked meals because instant foods are often ingested without being cooked.


Studies however show that thorough cooking and heating could destroy or minimize the bacteria.


WHO suggests proper cooking and food preparation as key methods in preventing the disease. Further, the public is advised to always observe sanitary practices such as frequent washing of raw materials and utensils to avoid contamination.