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Int J Circumpolar Health. 2002 Feb;61(1):50-60.

Botulism among Alaska natives in the Bristol Bay area of southwest Alaska: a survey of knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to fermented foods known to cause botulism.

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Arctic Investigations Program, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Anchorage, Alaska 99508, USA.



Botulism cases due to traditional Alaska Native fermented foods occur periodically in Southwest Alaska. In this population, we conducted a survey on knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to botulism and fermented foods.


We interviewed 140 adults randomly chosen from nine villages. Data collected included fermented food consumption frequency; knowledge about the cause and symptoms of botulism; and fermented food preparation methods.


Most respondents (81%) had eaten Alaska Native fermented foods at least once. Over 70% identified botulism as a foodborne illness, and over 87% believed eating certain Native fermented foods could cause botulism. One-third of fermented food preparers used plastic containers for fermentation. To prevent botulism, 45% vwould consider boiling fermented foods, and 65% would not eat foods fermented in plastic or glass containers.


Despite high awareness of botulism in this population, one-third of fermented food preparers use plastic containers, a practice which may increase the risk of botulism. Misconceptions and acceptable prevention messages about botulism, such as using traditional nonplastic fermentation methods, were identified and included in an educational video.

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