Botox - The World's Deadliest Natural Poison

Make no mistake. The food industry has known about botulinum toxin long before its popular image as a cosmetic miracle for wrinkle reduction. Botulism has long been associated with improper canning of low-acid foods. If heating temperature and time are not tightly controlled, the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which is naturally present in our environment, suddenly has the perfect oxygen-free conditions it needs to grow and produce its toxin. This neurotoxin causes paralysis and, if not quickly treated, death by respiratory or heart failure.

Since botulism is the most lethal of all foodborne illnesses, the FDA has strict regulations for manufacturers of low-acid canned foods. Their heating processes must be evaluated and approved by the FDA, and a supervisor from the company must be trained and certified through an FDA-approved program. A certified supervisor must be on hand during all canning operations. These precautions have given us a safe supply of canned foods. Today, botulism from home canning is a much more serious risk.

This toxin's ability to cause muscle paralysis is why it works to smooth wrinkles, hence the "frozen face." Of course to prevent the deadly effects above, injections of Botox must be very dilute and site specific. Still, complications can occur when the toxin migrates to nearby areas, causing droopy eyelids or difficulty swallowing. The wrinkle reduction may last for 3 - 4 months, the time it takes those muscles to heal from the toxin.

Photography by Alan Cann

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