What is botulism food poisoning?

Botulism is a disease caused by the bacterium scientifically known as Clostridium botulinum. Botulism food poisoning occurs when a toxin produced by the bacteria is consumed in improperly preserved foods. The disease is caused by a potent neurotoxin produced by the bacteria. It manifests as abdominal cramping, double or blurred vision, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, and other serious symptoms. Botulism is not spread from person to person.

Botulism food poisoning is a rare disease in the United States. About 110 cases of botulism occur in the United States every year, and the majority occur in infants (Source: PubMed).

Most commonly, people contract botulism food poisoning from eating home-canned foods or other contaminated foods, which may contain honey, corn syrup, baked potatoes, and cured meats or fish. Large outbreaks have been described involving commercially-prepared food products – most were outside of the United States.

The signs and symptoms of botulism food poisoning can last for one to two weeks or even longer. The disease course varies among individuals. Symptoms usually appear 12 to 36 hours after ingesting contaminated food, and can include muscle paralysis caused by the extremely potent toxin. Botulism food poisoning is treated with botulinum antitoxin and hospitalization (Source: CDC).

Botulism food poisoning is a life-threatening condition. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you suspect botulism food poisoning or if you, or someone you are with, have symptoms of difficulty breathing, abdominal pain or cramping, blurred or double vision, weakness (loss of strength), paralysis or inability to move a body part, vomiting, or drooping eyelids.


What are the symptoms of botulism food poisoning?

Botulism food poisoning causes a number of symptoms related to the effects of the botulinum toxin. The symptoms differ in adults and infants.

Common symptoms of botulism food poisoning in adults

Symptoms of botulism food poisoning in adults include:


What causes botulism food poisoning?

Clostridium botulinum is found in soil and untreated water. The bacteria create spores that subsist in incorrectly preserved or canned food, where they lead to the presence of bacteria that produce the botulinum toxin. Botulism food poisoning commonly occurs when the toxin is ingested. Ingesting even minute quantities can cause severe poisoning. The foods most commonly known to cause botulism f... Read more about botulism food poisoningcauses


How is botulism food poisoning treated?

Botulinum antitoxin in injected form is the mainstay of treatment for botulism food poisoning in adults. Infants are usually treated intravenously with immune globulin.

If the patient experiences breathing difficulty, hospitalization is required to establish a clear airway and provide ventilator support. A tube may be inserted through the patient’s mouth or nose or into the windpi... Read more about botulism food poisoningtreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Poisoning and Environmental Health