Research – Chinese Foodborne Botulism Outbreaks Have High Mortality Rate; Tofu, Beef Common Causes

Food Safety Magazine

study published in China CDC Weekly provides insight into foodborne botulism outbreaks in China. Researchers conducted an epidemiological analysis for the years of 2004–2020, which revealed a high mortality rate for cases of foodborne botulism and informed recommendations for reducing such outbreaks in China.

In the epidemiological analysis, data was collected from 22 of 31 Chinese provincial-level administrative divisions (PLADs) of the National Foodborne Disease Outbreaks Surveillance system, as well as the China National Knowledge Infrastructure, Wanfang Data, and Chinese Science and Technique Journals. The number and proportion of foodborne botulism outbreaks, illnesses, and deaths by PLAD; food types associated with outbreaks; and contributing factors were observed.

In total, 80 foodborne botulism outbreaks occurred in China during 2004−2020, with 386 illnesses and 55 deaths; initial misdiagnosis occurred in 27.5 percent of botulism cases. Most outbreaks were reported between June and August, aside from a spike in cases in January. Of the 22 PLADs that reported foodborne botulism outbreaks, Xinjiang reported the largest number of outbreaks (20), followed by Qinghai (13). Home-cooked, traditionally processed stinky tofu and dried beef were the most common vehicles for Clostridium botulinum, linked to 51.25 percent of botulism cases. Improper processing and storage practices contributed to 77.5 percent of foodborne botulism outbreaks.

Based on the study’s findings, the researchers suggest the implementation of botulism prevention and food safety education for farmers and herders in Xinjiang and Qinghai. The researchers also stress the urgency of improving Chinese foodborne illness outbreak investigation.

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