At least 15 victims have been identified in a botulism outbreak in Bordeaux, all patrons of the Tchin Tchin Wine Bar. One victim has died, and as many as two dozen were exposed to the deadly bacteria. The wine bar is located adjacent to the Rugby World Cup 2023 fan zone in Bordeaux, and enjoyed the patronage of tourists and fans of Rugby. The victims are from all over the European Union, Great Britain, and North America, and include Greek, Irish, Spanish, American, English, French, German and Canadian victims. All of the victims consumed sardines in oil from one of nine jars of preserved sardines used for tapas at the Tchin Tchin Wine Bar. The sardines tested positive for type B Clostridium botulinum.
The decedent was a 32 year-old woman who had come to Bordeaux from her Paris home. A Greek citizen, originally from Co Mayo, she was visiting Bordeaux with her Irish husband (they married earlier this year) for the Ireland-Romania Rugby World Cup fixture. She died in a Parisienne hospital.
Among the American victims were bike riders Matt Jackson and Kristy Benner, visiting from Hermosa Beach in California. They ate preserved sardines at the Tchin Tchin Wine Bar on September 4, 2023, and became sick within 16 hours. Jackson was hospitalized, forced to be on a ventilator, and was unable to open his eyes. His mouth became so dry he could not swallow, and was unable to speak. A similar progression worked itself through Kristy’s body and she was hospitalized 48 hours after Matt. Matt’s sister, Hillary Jackson, has since gone to France to be with her brother and Kristy.
All of the known victims appear to have consumed the sardines between the 4th and 10th of September, and all have suffered diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, blurred vision, dry mouth, inability to swallow, and other neurological signs of distress. Mist become unable to speak.
According to one national botulism attorney, “Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a neurotoxin secreted by certain strains of Clostridium botulinum, also known by shorthand form C. botulinum. Foodborne botulism is the most lethal bacterial toxin-mediated foodborne disease, and occurs with relatively low frequency. Botulism is also the only disease of that class for which a specific effective therapy exists if caught in time.”
For now, authorities are looking for additional victims, going through credit card receipts to trace the people who ate the contaminated sardines, and have opened an Involuntary Manslaughter investigation which can lead to a five year prison sentence and a fine of €75,000. The penalty for selling corrupt or toxic food in France is up to €300,000. Among the evidence is the fact that the sardines were in improperly sealed jars and smelled bad when opened. The owner discarded the worst smelling ones, but then used the remaining “fresh looking” portion for the tapas.
The restaurant, which was closed for a time, has since reopened.