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Presence of Clostridium botulinum spores in Matricaria chamomilla (chamomile) and its relationship with infant botulism

Bianco, María I., Lúquez, Carolina, de Jong, Laura I.T., Fernández, Rafael A.
International journal of food microbiology 2008 v.121 no.3 pp. 357-360
chamomile, Matricaria, infant foods, food pathogens, bacterial contamination, Clostridium botulinum, spore-forming bacteria, bacterial spores, botulism, infants, foodborne illness, tea (beverage), tea
Nowadays, infant botulism is the most important form of human botulism in some countries. This illness affects infants younger than 52 weeks of age. The infection occurs in the intestinal tract; therefore, ingestion of Clostridium botulinum spores with food is proposed. In some countries, people use chamomile tea as a household remedy for intestinal colics and given this tea to infants. Chamomile can be contaminated with C. botulinum and could be a vehicle of its spores. Our aim was to study the prevalence and spore-load of C. botulinum in chamomile. We analysed 200 samples; the 7.5% of them were contaminated with botulinum spores. However, prevalence of these spores was significantly higher in chamomile sold by weight in herbal stores (unwrapped chamomile) than prevalence in chamomile sold in tea bags (p =0.0055). The spore-load detected in all positive samples was 0.3-0.4 spores per gram of chamomile. We identified C. botulinum types A, B, and F in the 53.3%, 6.7%, and 13.3%, respectively. Chamomile (principally, unwrapped chamomile) is a potencial vehicle of C. botulinum spores, and ingestion of chamomile tea could represent a risk for infant botulism.