Botulism outbreak sees UK tourists ordered to report to A&E as French wine bar's sardines kill woman

Canned sardines are the suspected cause of the outbreak. Credit: Pixabay

British tourists are in hospital, and officials are desperately trying to trace others, after a dodgy batch of canned sardines in a French restaurant caused a botulism outbreak.

UK and French health officials have put out an urgent warning after a 32-year-old Parisian woman, who ate at the Tchin Tchin Wine Bar wine bar in Bordeaux, died from the disease.

At least 10 people were taken to hospital, including British tourists.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed to ITV News any holidaymakers who had eaten at the restaurant between September 4 and 10 should head to their local emergency department.

Symptoms of botulism can vary from stomach pain and vomiting, to blurred vision, lack of speech, severe paralysis and even death.

Most of those taken to hospital are in intensive care or a critical condition, according to a note by the deputy director of the regional health authority, Dr. Gregory Emery.

All had consumed sardine preserves served by the wine bar, he said.

It is suspected canned sardines in oil made by the restaurateur was the source of the disease France's official public health body Santé Publique has said.

The Tchin Tchin Wine Bar was closed pending further investigation.

Its manager said he ordered some jars of sardines were thrown out because of a bad smell but others from the same lot appeared to be safe, according to regional newspaper Sud-Ouest.

Officials are awaiting definitive lab confirmation that botulism was the source of their illnesses.

Among those sickened were visitors from the US, Ireland, Canada, Germany and Spain, according to local media reports.Local authorities are working to track down other people who ate the sardines and warned that the number of those infected could grow.

The UKHSA told ITV News: "UKHSA has been notified of a small number of British nationals who ate at the Tchin Tchin Wine Bar in Bordeaux between 4 and 10 of September.

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"Individuals who have been identified by the French authorities and have returned to the UK are receiving medical attention.

“However, there may be more people now in the UK who ate at the Bordeaux restaurant whom the French authorities have not been able to trace.

"If you ate at Tchin Tchin Wine Bar in Bordeaux, France, between 4 and 10 September, please contact your local Emergency department urgently and let them know that you have recently visited a restaurant with a botulism outbreak.

"Botulism does not spread from person to person and there is no risk to the general population.”

Botulism is a serious neurological condition caused by a very potent toxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. 

It tends to develop in poorly preserved foods.  Botulism is fatal in 5 to 10% of cases.

The incubation time can range from a few hours to a few days.