Brit holiday hotspots hit by deadly infectious disease as warning issued

Brit holiday hotspots hit by deadly infectious disease as warning issued

A deli counter in Seville, Spain

Sam Montgomery

By Sam Montgomery

Published: 01/08/2023

- 16:44

Packaged potato omelettes have been pulled from shelves after cases of botulism

Health officials in Spain have reported a spike in cases of botulism transmitted through packaged potato omelettes.

As supermarkets scrambled to pull products from Spanish shelves, officials warned that contaminated tortilla de patatas could also have entered France and Portugal.

Botulism is a rare life-threatening condition caused by toxins released by Clostridium botulinum bacteria.

Food-borne botulism, caused by consumption of improperly processed food, attacks the nervous system and causes paralysis which can prove fatal if not diagnosed rapidly.

The omelette is made with eggs and potatoes, optionally including onion, served hot or cold.

Wikimedia Commons

The World Health Organization reports that the disease can be fatal in 5 to 10 per cent of cases.

The Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN) has said that cases have been recorded in several regions, including Galicia, Asturias, Valencia, Madrid and Andalusia.

Five cases of botulism have been confirmed by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, with a further two cases suspected as probable.

Two of the confirmed cases are said to have occurred in Galicia and Asturias, which has led to two individuals aged 49 and 50 being admitted to an intensive care unit.

Warnings have been issued over improper preserving of Spanish omelettes


Further probable patients have been reported by Food Safety News in Valencia, Madrid, and Andalusia in people aged 27, 43 and 49.

Meanwhile, two recorded cases of botulism in Italy have been linked to Spanish omelettes consumed in Spain.

Food Safety News reports that a 23-year-old woman and her 61-year-old father reurtned home from Valladolid on July 1, having consumed the contaminated item on June 30.

Symptoms of food-borne botulism are most likely to begin 18 to 36 hours after consuming contaminated food, but can occur after anywhere from six hours to 10 days.


A 14-year-old boy afflicted with botulism.

Wikimedia Commons

Early symptoms include marked fatigue, nausea, stomach cramps, weakness, constipation, diarrhoea, vertigo, and vomiting.

This can progress to blurred vision, dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, slurred speech, weakness in the neck and arms, and breathing difficulties.

Notably, no fever or loss of consciousness should occur.

Without proper diagnosis and prompt treatment, the disease can lead to muscular paralysis.

One of the suppliers of contaminated omelettes, Grupo Empresarial Palacios Alimentación, said it had removed the item from store shelves and halted its production at a factory in Mudrian.

Spain has recorded 21 suspected cases of botulism so far this year.

Officials have reminded consumers that the bout of heatwaves has heightened the importance of preserving foods properly.

The NHS advises people to not eat food from bulging or damaged packaging, and avoid eating foods stored at the incorrect temperature or out of date.

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