Botulism among Alaska natives in the Bristol Bay area of southwest Alaska: a survey of knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to fermented foods known to cause botulism

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Chiou, Lisa A. ; Hennessy, Thomas W. ; Horn, Andrea ; Carter, Gary ; Butler, Jay C. (2002)
  • Publisher: Co-Action Publishing
  • Journal: International Journal of Circumpolar Health (issn: 1797-237X, eissn: 1239-9736)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3402/ijch.v61i1.17405
  • Subject:
    mesheuropmc: food and beverages | carbohydrates (lipids) | digestive, oral, and skin physiology

Objectives. Botulism cases due to traditional Alaska Native fermented foods occur periodically in Southwest Alaska. In this population, we conducted a survey on knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to botulism and fermented foods. Methods. We interviewed 140 adults randomly chosen from nine villages. Data collected included fermented food consumption frequency; knowledge about the cause and symptoms of botulism; and fermented food preparation methods. Results. Most respondents (81%) had eaten Alaska Native fermented foods at least once. Over 70% identified botulism as a foodborne illness, and over 87% believed eating certain Native fermented foods could cause botulism. One-third of fermented food preparers used plastic containers for fermentation. To prevent botulism, 45% would consider boiling fermented foods, and 65% would not eat foods fermented in plastic or glass containers Conclusions. Despite high awareness of botulism in this population, one-third of fermented food preparers use plastic containers, a practice which may increase the risk of botulism. Misconceptions and acceptable prevention messages about botulism, such as using traditional nonplastic fermentation methods, were identified and included in an educational video.(Int J Circumpolar Health 2002; 61:50-60)
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