French public health agency, Santé Publique France, reported one death and eight people in hospital following an outbreak of botulism – a rare food-borne illness.
It said they all visited the Tchin Tchin wine bar in Bordeaux in the same week. At this stage, it said sardines were the suspected source of illness.
Botulism attacks the body’s nerves and can paralyse muscles. The illness is typically brought on by eating food that has not been properly canned, preserved or cooked, according to the UK National Health Service.
French officials said the canned sardines under scrutiny had been preserved by the restaurant and bar, which is located on on Rue Emile Duployé in Bordeaux and has previously received good reviews.
British, Irish, German, Spanish, American and Canadian nationals have all reportedly been struck down by the botulism outbreak. Media reports said the person who died was a 32-year-old woman, but her nationality and identity have not been made public.
Benjamin Clouzeau, a doctor at Pellegrin hospital in Bordeaux, told the AFP news agency that 12 people have been receiving emergency treatment and five required respiratory support.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said it has been ‘notified of a small number of British nationals who ate at the Tchin Tchin Wine Bar in Bordeaux between 4-10 September’.
It added that there may be ‘more people now in the UK who ate at the Bordeaux restaurant whom the French authorities have not been able to trace’. It urged anyone that visited the Tchin Tchin Wine Bar between those dates to seek medical support.
Bordeaux always receives a large volume of tourists during September, but visitor numbers are even higher this year, as France is hosting the Rugby World Cup.
Ireland faced Romania in a group stage match at Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux on Saturday, and the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) warned fans that visited the restaurant to seek urgent medical attention.
‘It is important to emphasise that this advice only applies to those who ate sardines at the premises during the time specified,’ said HSE director Dr Greg Martin.
‘Botulism can be a serious and potentially fatal condition. Symptoms include blurred vision and difficulty in swallowing and speaking, but sometimes diarrhoea and vomiting can occur. The disease can lead to problems with vision, and paralysis.’