Lethal bacteria in vegan pate puts seven people on life support

By Thu Anh   August 30, 2020 | 05:55 am PT
Foodborne botulism caused by Minh Chay vegan pate has put seven people on ventilators, including one paralyzed and entirely dependent on the machine.

The ICU and Poison Control Department at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City is treating two middle-aged sisters from Long An Province who fell seriously sick after eating Minh Chay pate, said hospital director Nguyen Van Vinh Chau.

Minh Chay pate is produced by Loi Song Moi Company in Hanoi's Dong Anh District.

The duo from southern Vietnam was admitted with difficulties in swallowing and opening their mouth. Their condition worsened quickly, causing paralysis in their body and respiratory muscles. They had to be put on ventilators. After two weeks of treatment, the younger sister can move her arms and legs and her reliance on the ventilator has reduced.

"The older one's situation is more serious; she is awake but only can move the tips of her fingers, toes and lips. She continues to rely on the ventilator," Chau said.

Jars of Minh Chay pate, containing Clostridium botulinum. Photo courtesy of Department of Food Safety.

Jars of Minh Chay pate found containing the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Photo courtesy of the Department of Food Safety under the Ministry of Health.

In HCMC's Cho Ray Hospital, its Tropical Diseases Department admitted five patients from July 24 to 30. All of them, including a pregnant woman and her husband from southern Khanh Hoa Province, had droopy eyelids and paralyzed respiratory muscles caused by foodborne botulism.

The couple had Minh Chay pate on July 19 and experienced symptoms of nausea, difficulty in swallowing and droopy eyelids two days later. They were conscious when admitted, but had difficulty speaking and swallowing. As their respiratory system weakened they were put on ventilators on July 27.

The other three patients, a group of friends 20 to 26 years old, are from the southern provinces of Dong Nai and Ba Ria -Vung Tau. On July 24, they had the pate and were hospitalized with severe symptoms. After suffering respiratory failure, they continue to be on ventilators.

The patients at the Cho Ray Hospital are having plasma exchanged five times every two days and vitamin B supplements with physical therapy. The condition of four has improved, but a 20-year-old patient suffered paralysis after two days of improvement.

Two jars of Minh Chay pate that these patients had eaten were later obtained and sent to laboratories. Results confirmed the pate contained the Clostridium botulinum bacteria.

Apart from the aforementioned 10 patients, the Department of Food Safety under the Ministry of Health has also confirmed two other foodborne botulism cases caused by Minh Chay pate in Hanoi's Bach Mai Hospital.

On the afternoon of August 29, the department published an urgent warning, telling people to stop using the pate and go to local hospitals if they had eaten it and experienced any symptom.

Consumers have also been advised to notify local authorities about several products made by Loi Song Moi Company, including vegan pate, meatloaf and mushrooms.

Clostridium botulinum is a bacterium that produces dangerous toxins under low-oxygen conditions. Botulinum toxins are ingested through food in which the bacteria or the spores survive, then grow and produce the toxins, according to doctors at the Cho Ray Hospital.

Symptoms usually appear within 12 to 36 hours, or longer. They include stomachache, fatigue, pain in muscles, blurred vision, dry mouth, difficulty in swallowing and speaking and droopy eyelids. Patients can end up with respiratory failure caused by paralyzed respiratory muscles.

The Minh Chay brand issued an announcement on August 29 asking patrons to "immediately stop eating" the pate produced from July 1 to August 28.

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