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High Risk of Botulism from Ungutted Salted Fish Products, such as Fesikh

Starting date:
April 14, 2014
Posting date:
April 14, 2014
Type of communication:
Information Update
Microbiological - Clostridium botulinum
Source of recall:
Health Canada
General Public
Identification number:


Many Sham el-Nessim celebrations include a traditional family meal. Certain salted fish products like fesikh, a traditional dish in the Egyptian community, represent an increased risk of botulism because of the way they are prepared.

The fish used to make these salted fish dishes are not gutted before the ripening and salting process. This provides an opportunity for Clostridium botulinum bacteria that may be in the gut of the fish to grow and produce the toxins that cause botulism. These toxins are not eliminated by smoking or drying the end product. Whether the end product is a whole fish, fillets or parts, it will not be made safe by refrigerating, freezing, open air or vacuum packaging.

The most recent botulism outbreak in Canada caused by eating fesikh was in 2012. Internationally, consuming ungutted salted fish, including fesikh, has been linked to many cases of botulism.

What you should do

Food contaminated with the Clostridium botulinum toxin may not look or smell spoiled. Symptoms of botulism can include nausea and/or vomiting followed by one or more of the following: double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, dry mouth, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, weakness, respiratory failure and paralysis. In severe cases, death can occur. Symptoms generally begin 12 to 36 hours after eating a contaminated food, but can occur as early as six hours or as late as 10 days after. If you experience any of these symptoms after eating fesikh, contact your health care professional.

Media enquiries

Health Canada
(613) 957-2983

Public enquiries

(613) 957-2991
1-866 225-0709

For more information