The death of an El Paso County woman this past September has since been officially blamed on foodborne botulism, the first death of its kind in a decade. Foodborne botulism is rare but potentially deadly, as became apparent once again on September 20th, 2019.
The woman from Colorado had cardiovascular disease and diabetes contributing to her death, according to the autopsy report, but were it not for botulism, the 80-year-old woman could still be alive.
The source of the botulism was previously frozen potatoes stored at room temperature for two weeks. After eating the pre-prepared potatoes, the woman developed trouble breathing; her eyes bulged, her speech slowed, and her muscles became weakened. The woman’s botulism death was the first in El Paso County since 2008.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), home-canned vegetables are the most common cause of botulism outbreaks in the United States.
From 1996 to 2014, there were 210 outbreaks of foodborne botulism reported to the CDC. Of the 145 outbreaks that were caused by home-prepared foods, 43 outbreaks, or 30 percent were from home-canned vegetables. These outbreaks often occurred because home canners did not follow canning instructions, did not use pressure canners, ignored signs of food spoilage, or didn’t know they could get botulism from improperly preserving vegetables.