The victim is believed to have been affected by botulism and an alert was sounded by the Europe’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). “A warning has already been posted on the website of Saudi Food & Drug Authority (SFDA) asking consumers in Saudi Arabia to take maximum precautions,” said an SFDA official in Riyadh on Sunday.
He said the Kingdom is one of the largest consumers of raw olives, processed olives and olive oil.
The SFDA has traced the botulism outbreak in Finland to Gaudiano Bio Olives that are imported from Italy, he added. The SFDA has also informed the agencies to recall the products and remove them from the shelves of supermarkets. The contamination has alarmed olive consumers and traders across Europe and now in the Gulf.
Two people in Finland were diagnosed with botulism first. Both people reported having eaten Gaudiano olives stuffed with almonds. “Lab tests confirmed that the jar from which the two persons in Finland had eaten the olives contained botulinum toxin, which affects the nervous system and causes respiratory failures if left untreated,” said a report published by Swedish language service YLE.
Referring to the tainted olives, the SFDA official said they were in glass jars sold on to a number of supermarkets, smaller retailers and caterers in the Kingdom.
The SFDA would like to ensure that none of the affected olive batch remains on sale. The agency has also warned consumers to check the olive bottles, if they have purchased earlier and taken them home. “It is important that we contact these people and make sure that they do not eat any of the product in question,” said the official.
“The jars of Gaudiano Bio olives must be removed from the dining tables at our homes,” said Dr. Hassan Jalal, a local physician, referring to the need to take precautionary measures. Jalal said consumers who purchased Gaudiano organic olives stuffed with almonds (product of Italy; best before 09/2012), should not consume the product and instead dispose of them.
A staple cuisine, olives are most often eaten out of hand, though cooks also use them to flavor food.
Raw olives must be cured before they can be eaten, and the curing medium, usually lye, brine, or salt, affects their flavor and texture. Opened cans or jars of olives should be refrigerated, but some olives can be stored at room temperature if they’re submerged in brine or olive oil.
This is not the first time that the Kingdom has experienced this problem. In 2001, Saudi Arabia banned the import of Spanish olive oil over fears that it might contain carcinogenic chemicals.

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