Epidemiology and Infection

Research Article

An outbreak of foodborne botulism associated with contaminated hazelnut yoghurt

M. O'Mahonya1, E. Mitchella1 c1, R. J. Gilberta2, D. N. Hutchinsona3, N. T. Begga1, J. C. Rodhousea2 and J. E. Morrisa4

a1 PHLS Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, 61, Colindale Avenue, London NW9 5EQ

a2 PHLS Food Hygiene Laboratory

a3 PHLS Preston Laboratory

a4 Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde Health Authority


The largest recorded outbreak of foodborne botulism in the United Kingdom occurred in June 1989. A total of 27 patients was affected; one patient died. Twenty-five of the patients had eaten one brand of hazelnut yoghurt in the week before the onset of symptoms. This yoghurt contained hazelnut conserve sweetened with aspartame rather than sugar. Clostridium botulinum type B toxin was detected in a blown can of hazelnut conserve, opened and unopened cartons of hazelnut yoghurt, and one faecal specimen. Cl. botulinum type B was subsequently cultured from both opened and unopened cartons of the hazelnut yoghurt and from one faecal specimen. Investigations indicated that the processing of the conserve was inadequate to destroy Cl. botulinum spores. Control measures included the cessation of all yoghurt production by the implicated producer, the withdrawal of the firm's yoghurts from sale, the recall of cans of the hazelnut conserve, and advice to the general public to avoid the consumption of all hazelnut yoghurts.

(Accepted December 19 1989)


c1 Dr Elizabeth Mitchell, Communicable Dieses Surveillance Centre, 61 Colindale Avenue, London. NW9 5EQ, UK.