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The Spanish Cooking Oil Scandal

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Lily Cuan

on 2 October 2013

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Transcript of The Spanish Cooking Oil Scandal

The Spanish Cooking Oil Scandal
Dr Muro produced maps of the localities, showing where the patients lived. He believed that the contaminated foodstuff was being sold at the local weekly street markets, which set up in different towns on different days. He predicted where the illness would strike next.

He patrolled the street markets and noticed the popularity and cheapness of large, unlabeled plastic containers of cooking oil. Immediately, he went to the houses of affected families and removed the containers of oil that they had been using and sent samples of each to the government's main laboratory.

The judges said that the toxin in the oil was "still unknown", they can't put the oil merchants in prison.

Dr Javier Martinez Ruiz, set a rigorous examination of the official information. The results shocked him; Martinez looked at the pattern of admissions to hospitals and realized that oil had no effect on the course of the epidemic.

Meanwhile, Dr Maria Clavera Ortiz had examined the patterns of distribution of the suspect oil, which had come across the border from France. She realized that the oil was sold in regions where there had not been a single case of illness.

Dr Muro and his colleagues turned their attention to other salad products. Around 4,000-5,000 affected families, they concluded that the contaminated food was
, and it was the
on them that were responsible for the epidemic.
Thirty-two years ago, the Spanish "cooking oil" disaster began as a mystery illness. Years later, more than 1,000 deaths and more than 25,000 seriously injured. It was the most devastating food poisoning in modern European history.

May 1, 1981
The disaster is historically important not just because of its scale and the number of victims. It was the prototype contemporary scientific fraud. One thing that is certain about the Spanish "cooking oil" disaster is that it had nothing to do with cooking oil.
An eight-year-old boy, Jaime Vaquero Garcia, suddenly fell ill and died in his mother's arms on the way to La Paz children's hospital in Madrid.

His five brothers and sisters were also ill, doctors began treating them for "atypical pneumonia".

May 1, 1981
When Dr Antonio Muro arrived at work the following morning, he was alarmed these new patients were being treated for pneumonia, it was out of the question medically for six members of a family to be suffering the same symptoms of pneumonia at the same time.

The initial symptoms were flu, fever, breathing difficulties, vomiting, nausea, skin rashes and muscle pain. The epidemic was national news.
Dr Muro told the media that he believed it was due to food poisoning. He was certain of this, because the casualties were all coming from the apartment blocks of the communities and towns surrounding the capital.

Dr Muro brought together relatives with the mystery illness and told them to say exactly what the victims may have eaten and what the unaffected family members, may not have eaten. In half an hour, they had an answer:
May 4, 1981
May 12, 1981
Dr Angel Peralta, the head of the endocrinology department at La Paz hospital, pointed out in a newspaper article that the symptoms of the illness were best explained by "poisoning by organo-phosphates".

The following day, he received a telephone call from the health ministry, ordering him to say nothing about the epidemic.
Most medical personnel didn’t know the cause of the illness; they had no idea how to treat patients. As the illness reached its chronic stage, the symptoms became more severe, and included weight loss, myalgia (muscle pain), alopecia, and deformity.

Dr Juan Tabuenca Oliver, director of the Hospital Infantil de Niño Jesus, told the government that he'd found the cause of the epidemic was the cooking oil. The government accepted his theory.
May 12, 1981
June 9, 1981

Entrepreneurs simply
imported the cheaper oil anyway. The illness was therefore attributed to aniline poisoning, known as la colza.

Dr Muro obtained the results of the tests with the precise oil samples. To protect its native olive oil industry, the Spanish government tried to prevent imports of the much
cheaper rapeseed oil.
An official announcement was made on late-night television, informing the public that the epidemic was caused by contaminated cooking oil. Almost immediately, the panic subsided and the hospitals remained full of victims.
June 10, 1981
The health ministry allowed families to hand in their contaminated oil and replaced it with pure olive oil.

July 1, 1981
The epidemic was then officially named toxic oil syndrome (TOS).
The government already knew that the oil was not the cause of the epidemic; they also fired all the people that were aware of that.

The suspect oil was sold in parts of Spain where not a single case of illness. Many families who had suffered illness, they had never purchased the oil.
The government agency responsible for toxic oil syndrome refused to release details of any background information.
According to the governments own records, 83 cases of colza (the contaminated oil) in Seville. The other 80 vanished from the official records, because they couldn't possibly fit the oil theory.
This epidemic was cause by “toxic oil” the route of exposure was oral digestion, because the toxicant was in a salad dressed by an uncooked olive oil.
The duration of exposure was at first acute, it was less than 24 hours, the ill people had a single exposure to the toxicant.
The source of this toxicant it’s dietary and environmental. It was dietary, because the people eat the olive oil that contains their salads. Also its environmental because the tomatoes of the salad were contaminated with pesticides. Another concerned in susceptibility to the toxicant, is that more women appeared affected than men

In studies, the toxic oils contain different components, such as additives, liquefied pork fat and a low quality of olive oil. The additive is rapeseed oil, that it’s a mixture of toxic agents contained high levels of aniline and anilide-oil and small quantities of azobenzene, methylaniline and quinolines.
Toxic-oil syndrome manifested itself in two phases, the first one was a toxic character and the second one were autoimmune diseases
People were exposed to certain chemicals and drugs that include benzene. The toxic response it is in the methemoglobinemia, is the blood disorder in which an abnormal amount of methemoglobin is produced and cannot release oxygen, because the concentration is elevated in red blood cells.
Overexposure of these pesticides combine with combine with acetylcholinesterase can enter to the human body through ingestion. They can affect cholinesterase activity in both red blood cells and in blood plasma, and can act directly with other enzymes.
Toxicokinetics and toxicodynamics depend on the specific pesticide, its chemical characteristics and formulation. The routes of absorption are the biotransformation of most pesticides involves a combination of several chemical reactions including oxidation, reduction, hydrolysis and/or conjugation, producing different metabolites that may be more or less active. Pesticides may reach different organs and tissues. Many pesticides accumulate in the adipose tissues.
Is the general name for esters of phosphoric acid. Phosphates are probably the most pervasive organophosphorus compounds. Many of the most important biochemicals are organophosphates, including DNA and RNA as well as many cofactors that are essential for life. Organophosphates are the basis of many insecticides, herbicides, and nerve gases.
Overall picture:
Although many of those affected recovered from the acute and intermediate phases, some conditions – either isolated or in various combinations – are still common now, over 20 years after the onset of the disease.
Over 60% of TOS victims report suffering from myalgia and paraesthesia, and contractures are present in a quarter of the affected population. Some 10% of TOS patients are recorded by the Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social as handicapped with permanent disability.
No particular treatment produced any convincing therapeutic effect on the disease. Steroids administered during the acute and intermediate phases did
not appear to prevent the chronic phase, although the general thought was that they reduced eosinophil levels and produced an improvement in patients with pulmonary oedema. No controlled trial or otherwise planned clinical
study was ever carried out in TOS patients. At present, most patients are given symptomatic treatment and physical rehabilitation. Those with particular disorders such as pulmonary hypertension receive therapy specific to those
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