Society Abroad

Man Loses Ability To See And Speak After Eating Tainted Sardines In France

A woman also died from botulism poisoning.
Tinned sardines are considered to be one of the simplest ways to fill one’s stomach when hunger strikes, but not many know of the fatal effects it can bring if it’s already tainted.

A 41-year-old man from Colorado, USA, is now struggling to see and speak properly after he suffered botulism from eating tinned sardines while holidaying in France with his girlfriend.

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Man serves tinned sardines
For illustration purposes only. Photo via Pexels

Ate sardines at French restaurant

Speaking to Le Parisien about the unfortunate incident, Matt Jackson’s girlfriend Kristy Benner said both of them patronised a restaurant called Tchin Tchin Wine Bar in early September.

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“We got there [the restaurant] around 6 pm, and immediately we thought the place was super cute. We tasted several wines and enjoyed charcuterie and sardines as an aperitif.

Tchin tchin wine bar
Photo via CBS News

“I only had a couple, maybe one or two, and Matthew had two (of the sardines). They tasted normal,” she said.

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Man loses ability to see and speak after eating tainted sardines

The next day, both Matt and Kristy were cycling through the vineyard when Matt started having problems with his eyesight and felt dizzy. When the couple were picked up by the tour organiser in a van, Matt began vomiting.

His mouth was very dry, his tongue was numb and he couldn’t swallow. I panicked and thought he was having a stroke. I immediately called 112 and I went out into the street to get help because I don’t speak French.

“He was then brought to Saint-André hospital, where doctors did not immediately suspect botulism,” said Kristy.

Man loses ability to see and speak after eating tainted sardines in france
Photo via CBS News

It wasn’t until five days later did doctors finally realised that botulism poisoning was the cause for Matt’s symptoms. As a result of his condition, Kristy said Matt was unable “see or speak”.

“To communicate, he writes on a whiteboard. A few days ago, I was able to read ‘I’m in good hands’. I hope he’ll be able to walk again. He could be transferred to Los Angeles, but he has been looked after well here,” she said.

Aside from him, a woman has since died and eight others were sent to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for botulism poisoning after eating the same tainted sardines, reported CBS News.

Recovering at hospital

Despite getting hit with pneumonia and losing mobility throughout his body, Matt is showing signs of recovery, where he’s now able to breathe on his own and is slowly able to open his eyes.

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Matt jackson & kristy benner
Photo via CBS News

The restaurant operator is currently being investigated for his role in the botulism outbreak, where he faces up to five years in prison for manslaughter.

Botulism is a rare but deadly illness that is caused by the Clostridium botulinum bacterium, where it produces the botulinum toxin when exposed to low oxygen levels common in canned food.

Here are some symptoms for botulism:

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  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Muscle weakness
  • Double vision
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Blurry vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty moving the eyes

We wish Matt Jackson a speedy recovery and hope the police will punish those responsible for the outbreak.


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