The recent deadly outbreak of nacho botulism reminded me of another big botulism outbreak caused by pruno, aka prison wine. Brian and Jason from Modern Rogue show how to make pruno, showing why it could easily contain botulism.
In the outbreak at a Utah maximum security prison, the prison library apparently did not have much info on brewing and food prep safety, as one rancid potato was the culprit:
Several batches of pruno were reportedly in circulation among inmates at the time of the outbreak. Pruno batch A was made with oranges, grapefruit, canned fruit, water, powdered drink mix (a source of sugar), and a baked potato. Among these ingredients, the baked potato was the only ingredient used in brew A that was not used in simultaneously circulating pruno batches. Consequently, preparation of baked potatoes in the prison kitchen and methods used to prepare brew A were the primary focus of the field investigation.
The inmate who prepared brew A reported the potato was removed from a meal tray, stored at ambient temperature for an undetermined number of weeks in either a sealed plastic bag or jar obtained from the commissary, peeled using his fingernails, and added to a plastic bag containing other ingredients a few days before brew A consumption. The ingredients were fermented in this bag for several days before being distributed to other inmates in resealable plastic bags. Toxin likely was produced when the potato was added to a bag containing low-acidity pruno ingredients under warm, anaerobic conditions during pruno fermentation. Warm conditions commonly are obtained by placing the bagged mixture in warm water and insulating the bag with clothing, towels, or bedding (2). Plastic bags and jars used in pruno fermentation are easily accessible to inmates. Laundry and items purchased from the commissary are delivered in plastic bags and foods packaged in jars and resealable bags can be purchased from the commissary. During the investigation, many types of plastic bags and jars were observed in cells.
As the guys from Modern Rogue note: "Seriously though, don't make or drink Pruno. Best case scenario you'll probably feel miserable and have diarrhea, worst case you'll be paralyzed and die and also not be drunk."