broa de milho

Broa de Milho intoxifications: mystery prompts health warning

“Do not eat cornbread in the following locations”

A spate of food poisonings linked to a national ‘delicacy’ known as ‘broa de milho’ (a variety of cornbread) has seen Portugal’s general health directorate issue a “do not eat” warning for various parts of the country.

People in Leiria, Santarém, Coimbra and Aveiro must resist the temptation to sink their teeth into this stodgy bread as (no-one knows exactly why) they could end up suffering some very unpleasant consequences.

Almost 190 citizens (so far) have experienced ‘a dry mouth, blurred vision, dizziness, mental confusion and decreased muscle strength’ after unwittingly eating toxic broas.

The symptoms come on roughly half an hour after consumption, and can last ‘a couple of hours’. A number of people have had to be treated in hospital.

Yes, this is the silly season – and the bottom line is don’t let silliness get the better of you: keep away from cornbread (which, to be fair, is not the first food one thinks of in 40ºC heat).

A year or so ago the DGS beseeched citizens not to eat Bacalhau à Brás – or even to get ill  during August. This year Bacalhau à Brás seems to have won a reprieve and the message is “don’t eat broa de milho”.

The health directorate is taking the situation extremely seriously: it hasn’t just issued a ‘warning’ for four districts, but pinpointed individual boroughs within these districts where the consumption of broa could go horribly pear-shaped: in Leiria it is the boroughs of Pombal, Ansião, Leiria, Marinha Grande and Pedrógão Grande, in Santarém, Ourém;  Coimbra district sees Figueira da Foz, Condeixa-a-Nova and Coimbra itself highlighted, and in Aveiro it is the boroughs of Ílhavo and Vagos where broa enthusiasts must resist, at all costs.

To add a curious twist to the warning, the DGS adds that: “Cornbread is, and should continue to be, an integral part of the Portuguese diet…” 

The agony of it all.

Today’s information, coming from Lusa, is that this “do not eat” warning will remain in place while investigations continue.

“This is a preventive and transitional measure, calling for the collaboration of members of the public until this food is considered safe” – at which point everyone can run at the shelves once again, and stock up with this integral element of the Portuguese diet.

Considering obesity is expected to ‘hit’ 39% of the population by 2025, one could question why such a calorie filled but otherwise devoid of nutrition food item should remain such an important part of the Portuguese diet. But perhaps that is asking too much in the middle of the summer.

According to ‘investigations so far’, it is looking like this ‘wave of intoxications’ could stem from the raw materials involved (cornflour, eggs, sugar, yeast), but no one is yet confident enough to put their finger into the mix and identify which raw material it is.

“The Directorate-General for Health and the Food and Economic Safety Authority have implemented all the measures defined to contain this toxinfection and investigate its source, including carrying out analyses of food and raw materials, and inspecting economic operators to identify the batches of raw materials used,” stresses today’s ‘alert’.

Thus, until the coast is clear, just don’t risk it… 

[email protected]