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Dozens Hospitalized in Moscow Amid Mass Food Poisoning Incident

A food delivery worker in Moscow. Sofya Sandurskaya / TASS

More than 120 people sought medical help and at least 30 are in intensive care following a suspected outbreak of a rare and extremely dangerous food poisoning in Moscow, health officials said Monday.

The patients were admitted to the hospital with suspected foodborne botulism, a life-threatening condition that attacks the nervous system and can cause respiratory failure and paralysis.

Russian authorities said the toxic outbreak came from salads distributed by a popular online delivery service, which on Sunday temporarily suspended its operations amid a criminal investigation.

"In total, 121 people sought medical help," state media agencies quoted Moscow Deputy Mayor Anastasia Rakova as saying on Monday.

"At the moment, 55 people are in serious condition, 30 of them are in intensive care," she added.

State consumer and health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said over the weekend that it was conducting an "epidemiological investigation into suspected cases of botulism."

Meanwhile, the Moscow prosecutor's office said it had launched a criminal investigation into a breach of consumer safety standards.

Deputy Mayor Rakova said there was "no threat to the lives" of those who had been hospitalized thanks to timely medical intervention.

According to the World Health Organization, foodborne botulism can be fatal without rapid treatment with antitoxins. Botulism, which does not pass between people, is an extremely rare condition, typically caused by improperly processed food. 

The food delivery company linked to the outbreak, Kuchnia Na Rayone, said it had identified a "potential risk incident" with a salad that used tinned beans, adding that it had suspended orders.

There were 82 confirmed cases of botulism across the European Economic Area in 2021, the latest year with available data, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

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