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Prisoners poison themselves with jailhouse wine

Pruno, or “prison wine” is an alcoholic liquid made by prisoners from assorted food items. Photo by Flickr user Puddin n Tang

When an inmate at a Utah Prison altered his pruno “wine” recipe by adding an old potato, the results proved poisonous. Pruno, or “prison wine” is an alcoholic liquid made from apples, oranges, fruit cocktail, ketchup, sugar, milk, and possibly other ingredients, including crumbled bread to ferment the beverage.

In a report published by Annals of Emergency Medicine on Tuesday, revealed that eight patients were treated for botulism poisoning in 2011, 54 hours after ingesting as much as two gallons of pruno. They had trouble swallowing, double vision, difficulty speaking and weakness. Three of the patients had respiratory failure.

Botulism is a muscle-paralyzing disease caused by a toxin made by a bacterium and can occur after ingesting food that has a kind of pre-formed toxin. The source of this outbreak was likely the baked potato, used to make the pruno.

The inmates were treated with a botulism anti-toxin provided by the Centers for Disease Control, which stockpiles the antidote in case of bioterrorism. This isn’t the only time inmates in the U.S. have suffered from botulism as a result of imbibing pruno. Other similar incidents have been recorded by the CDC at prisons in Arizona and California.

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