A restaurant manager in France was charged with involuntary homicide on Wednesday over a botulism outbreak that killed one person and sickened 15 others who ate homemade sardine preserves at his organic wine bar.
The victims, most of them foreigners, became ill in early September after eating at the Tchin Tchin Wine Bar, an establishment in central Bordeaux that attracted scores of tourists who were in town for the Rugby World Cup.
French authorities blamed botulism — an extremely rare but potentially life-threatening illness — and traced the outbreak to improperly prepared oil-based sardine preserves that were served at the wine bar.
One of the victims, a Greek citizen, died and several others were hospitalized in intensive care. The victims, most of them in their 30s and 40s, also included citizens from Canada, Germany, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Frédérique Porterie, the public prosecutor in Bordeaux, said on Wednesday that the restaurant manager was now under formal investigation and that he had been charged with involuntary homicide and injuries caused by a deliberate failure to comply with safety regulations, endangering the life of others, failure to assist a person in danger and the sale of contaminated or toxic food products.
The man, who has not been named by the authorities, could face up to five years in prison and a significant fine.
Ms. Porterie said in a statement that investigators had uncovered “various breaches of health and hygiene rules” by the manager, “particularly with regard to the preparation of homemade preserves” that were sold to customers.
She did not elaborate. But French officials said in September that while the establishment had never been reported for health violations in the past, the manager had a “very artisanal” method for making the sardine preserves.
The man was taken into police custody on Tuesday for questioning, Ms. Porterie said. Prosecutors have requested that he be released only under strict conditions, mainly a ban on managing or operating a food service establishment.
The case is now being handled by special magistrates who have broad investigative powers and who place defendants under formal investigation when they believe the evidence points to serious wrongdoing.
According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, botulism is caused by a toxin that attacks the body’s nerves and paralyzes muscles. Symptoms include difficulty breathing or swallowing, slurred speech, blurry vision, vomiting and diarrhea.
The bacteria that make the botulinum toxin are found naturally and are usually harmless, according to the C.D.C. But foods that are improperly canned, preserved or fermented can provide the right conditions for the bacteria to produce lethal toxins. Most patients who become ill with botulism fully recover, but it can take several months.
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