‘Involuntary homicide’ investigation opened against owner of wine bar at centre of botulism outbreak

Mayo man, whose Greek-born wife has died, remains in critical condition in Paris following visit to Tchin Tchin Wine Bar in Bordeaux last weekend

The Bordeaux public prosecutor’s office has announced it is opening a preliminary investigation into involuntary homicide against the owner of a wine bar at the centre of an outbreak of botulism.

A conviction for involuntary manslaughter can lead to a five year prison sentence and a fine of €75,000. The penalty for selling corrupt or toxic food in France is up to €300,000.

A 32-year-old Greek woman died and her Irish husband, originally from Co Mayo, is in intensive care in Paris after dining at the Tchin Tchin Wine Bar in Bordeaux last weekend.

The couple were in the city for the Ireland-Romania Rugby World Cup fixture last Saturday. They contracted the rare but potentially deadly disease after eating contaminated sardines.


They became ill after returning to Paris and the woman died in a Parisienne hospital. An autopsy was carried out on Friday with the results expected to be made public next week.

Some of the man’s family have travelled to France from Co Mayo. The couple have been living together in Paris since last May when they got married.

Eight other people have been hospitalised as a result of the outbreak. A total of 12 people who had visited the wine bar showed signs of botulism poisoning.

French officials are going through credit card receipts and mobile phone numbers to trace those who may have eaten contaminated sardines. There is a potential incubation period for botulism of eight days, according to a report in the French newspaper Le Figaro. They fear that many of those who are potentially infected may not be sick yet. Some are believed to be foreign tourists who were in the city for the Rugby World Cup, with thousands of Irish fans there last weekend for the Romania match.

The HSE said a “small number” of Irish citizens are receiving treatment in France after contracting botulism in Bordeaux. It advised anyone who ate sardines at the wine bar between September 4th and 10th and who is feeling unwell to seek “urgent medical care”. It was notified of the outbreak on Tuesday.

All those infected are being treated with an antitoxin for botulism which is being kept as part of a strategic stock managed by the French army.

The source of the poisoning was found to be nine jars containing sardines served as tapas. They were not properly sealed and there was a bad smell when the jars were open. Nevertheless, the restaurateur used the preserves that he thought were still fresh. The restaurant has since reopened.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times