From Greece and Italy in the South of Europe, to Finland, Sweden and Norway in the North, national food safety agencies are warning consumers that La Ruche artisanal spreads, dips and preserves may be tainted with botulinum toxin.

On September 6th, France issued a Health Alert, advising that eight people were hospitalized due to botulism – five in Vaucluse, and three in Somme. The eight victims reported consuming a tapenade manufactured by the artisanal food processor La Ruche (Cavaillon, France), and sold under the brand name Les délices de Marie Claire. Analyses carried out by l’Institut Pasteur found botulinum toxin in the implicated tapenade.

Investigators of this outbreak determined that La Ruche never registered with the Prefecture in which it operated. The company’s operations, as a result, were never inspected. To make matters worse, the couple who own and operate La Ruche did not carry out appropriate control procedures, did not seek technical assistance, and did not have the proper equipment in place to sterilize their product effectively.

Clostridium botulinum or its potentially lethal neurotoxin have now been found in several different La Ruche products. French health authorities have ordered a recall of the entire output of the company’s food production facility, including products sold under the brand names Les délices de Marie-Claire, Terre de Mistral, and Le secret d’Anaïs.

The recalled products were sold in stores and markets in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France, and over the internet through the websites  http://www.chocolatprovence.com and http://www.epicerie-terroirprovence.com.

Although the recalled products were not exported from France, health authorities across Europe are concerned that people who traveled to the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur may have purchased these products and brought them back as souvenirs or gifts. Health Alerts have been issued by a number of European countries, including Belgium, Denmark, FinlandGreece, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. So far, there have been no cases of botulism linked to these products except for the eight cases reported in France.

Following is a complete list of recalled products, by brand:

  • Terre De Mistral
    • Tapenade Noire
    • Tartinade De Tomate Sechees
    • Tapenade Verte
    • Pesto
    • Anchoiade
  • Les délices de Marie-Claire
    • Tapenade Noire 180g
    • Tapenade Noire Aux Pignons
    • Tapenade Noire Au Pistou
    • Tapenade Noire Aux Tomates Sechees
    • Tapenade Verte
    • Tapenade Verte Aux Amandes
    • Tapenade Verte Au Thon
    • Anchoiade A La Provencale
    • Anchoiade De Marius
    • Tomates Sechees A L’huile D’olive
    • Thoionade
    • Delice De Tomates Sechees Au Piment D’espellette
    • Tartinade De Tomates Sechees
    • Caviar D’aubergines
    • Tartinade D’aubergines Sechees Au Piment Doux
    • Pesto Sauce Au Pistou
    • Poivronnade
    • Poichichade
    • Artichonade
    • Tapenade verte Aux Olives Vertes Et Aux Amandes
  • Le secret d’Anaïs
    • Tapenade Noire
    • Tartinade De Tomate Sechees
    • Tapenade Verte
    • Pesto
    • Anchoiade

Anyone who has purchased one of these items, or has received them as gifts, should return them to the place of purchase (if possible) or discard them in a manner that will prevent their accidental consumption.

Clostridium botulinum can grow and produce its toxin without altering the appearance, taste or smell of a food. Under no circumstances should you “sample” any of these products to see whether they are “OK” to eat. Even a miniscule amount of botulinum toxin can cause serious illness.

Symptoms of foodborne botulism typically begin with double vision or blurred vision, and difficulty in swallowing and speaking; diarrhea and vomiting can also occur. A progressive paralysis ensues, which can be fatal in 3-5% of cases. Most fatalities are due to respiratory arrest. The severity of symptoms depend in large part on the amount of toxin ingested.

If you have eaten any of the recalled products and believe yourself to be experiencing symptoms of botulism, please seek immediate medical attention.

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