Europe 1 with AFP // Photo credits: DIGICOMPHOTO / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRA / FCA / Science Photo Library via AFP 19:00 p.m., December 05, 2023

One person died among a dozen from botulism after eating homemade canned sardines in the same restaurant in Bordeaux last September. The owner of a restaurant in Bordeaux was taken into custody on Tuesday, December 5.

The owner of a restaurant in Bordeaux was taken into custody on Tuesday in the investigation opened in September after 15 cases of botulism, including one fatal, linked to canned sardines, the prosecutor's office said. He is the manager of the Tchin-Tchin Wine Bar, located in the centre of Bordeaux, public prosecutor Frédérique Porterie told AFP, confirming information from the daily Le Parisien. The prosecutor's office added that it would communicate on Wednesday at the end of the police custody.

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"Homicide and unintentional injury"

This arrest comes in the investigation for "homicide and unintentional injuries", "placing on the market foodstuffs harmful to health" and "sale of corrupt or toxic foodstuffs" which had been opened in mid-September, after several cases of botulism among the customers of this establishment popular with tourists. The preliminary investigation has been entrusted to the judicial police, the Central Office for the Fight against Environmental and Public Health Offences (OCLAESP) and the Departmental Directorate for the Protection of Populations.

The penalties incurred, depending on the charges, range from two to five years in prison and a fine of 45,000 to 600,000 euros. A total of 15 patrons of the offending restaurant, including some American, Canadian, Irish, Greek, British and German nationals, had been identified as "suspected cases of botulism". The deceased victim is a 32-year-old woman who died at her home in Paris after presenting herself to hospitals, according to the prosecutor's office. What all these people have in common is that they ate homemade canned sardines in this restaurant between 4 and 10 September in Bordeaux, the city that hosted the first two matches of the 2023 Rugby World Cup (Ireland-Romania and Wales-Fiji).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the French investigation determined, through credit card receipts, that about 25 people were "exposed" -- that is, likely consumed the suspect food. Botulism is a rare and serious neurological condition, fatal in 5 to 10% of cases and caused by a very powerful toxin, produced by a bacterium that grows in particular in poorly preserved food, due to a lack of sufficient sterilization. It causes eye problems (double vision), swallowing defects and, in advanced forms, paralysis of the muscles, especially the respiratory muscles, which can lead to death.