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Botulism warning over pesto bought at Hay River market

Jars of Riverside Growers NT pesto on display at Hay River's market in July 2018
Jars of Riverside Growers NT pesto on display at Hay River's market in July 2018. Riverside Growers NT/Facebook

The NWT’s chief public health officer has warned people who bought pesto at Hay River’s market this month to throw it away or risk botulism.

In an advisory published late on Thursday, Dr Andre Corriveau said the warning applied to anyone who purchased pesto from Riverside Growers NT at the Fisherman’s Wharf Market on July 7 or July 14.

“Discard it and do not eat it,” the advisory read. “There is a risk of botulism related to consuming this product.”

On Facebook, Riverside Growers NT apologized to customers and claimed the issue was related to “a lack of labelling.”



The company, a hydroponic farm based in Hay River, said: “The jars did not indicate refrigeration was necessary. Without refrigeration there is the potential for botulism.

“We have contacted approximately two-thirds of our customers who purchased already. If we haven’t contacted you regarding the issue, please contact us for a refund.

“We are very sorry for this error.”

In a separate Facebook post earlier in the week, the company said it had sold out of pesto at the July 14 market.



Muscle paralysis

Botulism is one of the world’s most potent, paralyzing nerve toxins. It is produced by bacteria that thrive in low-oxygen conditions – like improperly canned or fermented food.

Symptoms include a dry mouth and slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, drooping eyelids, and blurred or double vision.

Without treatment, botulism can move on to paralyze muscles in the arms, legs, and torso, eventually affecting the ability to breathe. Its effect on the body can be fatal.

More: Information about botulism and its symptoms

A territorial government spokesperson told Cabin Radio there had been no reports of illnesses related to the pesto to date. Symptoms usually begin 12 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food, but can take up to 10 days to materialize.

Anyone who has already consumed the pesto, and who has any of the above symptoms, should seek medical attention.

This is not the first instance of pesto causing a concern over botulism.

The food safety legal firm Marler Clark outlines, on its website, a California case dating to 2014 in which, similarly, the product did not bear a label reminding consumers it should be refrigerated.