Pruno or prison wine: old potato led to botulism outbreak in Utah prison

Who hasn’t tried to make hooch from old produce while in prison.

I have.

It’s so boring in jail people will try anything, usually experimenting with creative ways to bring in drugs, and becoming better criminals upon prunorelease.

I had a basic understanding of microbiology and fermentations.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the inmate who cooked up some botulism-tainted jailhouse wine at the Utah State Prison in 2011 had brewed homemade alcohol before. But he made one — nearly fatal — mistake in October 2011.

He used a potato.

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.

According to a study about the botulism outbreak published this week in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, the inmate’s experimentation in putting an old potato among other ingredients in the plastic bag hidden in his cell led to the sickening of 12 inmates at the prison. The potato allowed botulism to develop, according to the article.

The 2011 incident was highlighted in the peer-reviewed journal for the American College of Emergency Physicians in an article entitled, “Emergency Department Identification and Critical Care Management of a Utah Prison Botulism Outbreak.”

In the Utah case, researchers said eight of the 12 inmates who were sickened by the bad brew were diagnosed with “acute botulism poisoning.” This incident is one of the largest foodborne botulism outbreaks since 2006, according to researchers.

The inmate who made the so-called “pruno” told medical officials that he had made the brew — which contained a two-week old baked potato, powdered juice mix and several types of fresh and canned fruit — about 20 times before. But this was the first time he had added a potato, thinking it would “accelerate fermentation.”

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