Current Weather
The Spy FM

Botulism From ‘Pruno’ Hits Arizona Prison

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
February 7, 2013

Well, it has happened again. Twice.

Inmates at a maximum security prison in Arizona were stricken with botulism after consuming homemade hooch that’s called “pruno” inside the big house.

Eight inmates wound up in the hospital in November after drinking the stuff. In August, four prisoners at the same facility were hospitalized.

The symptoms of botulism include blurred vision, dry mouth and difficulty swallowing and breathing.

An account in the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report doesn’t name the prison, but back in November it was identified as the Arizona State Prison Complex-Eyman in Florence.

Pruno is a foul brew made by prisoners with whatever they can find to fuel fermentation. Some fruit, a little water and sugar are usually enough to make alcohol-producing yeast happy in captivity.

Using starchy potatoes is a no-no, though. The tubers can harbor spores from the Clostridium botulinum bacteria that produce a paralyzing toxin.

Both Arizona outbreaks were tied to pruno made with potatoes, according to the MMWR report. That was also the case in another 2012 outbreak at a Utah prison.

Dr. Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, blogged about the November outbreak and the inmates’ pruno recipe:

For this batch, they put a baked potato in sealed, warm bottles and fermented it for several days- the perfect environment for producing botulism toxin. This prison brew (called pruno) is foul smelling and doesn’t look much better either.

After the August cluster of cases, no special measures were taken to prevent botulism, the MMWR report says. After the second bunch of cases, the prison banned potatoes from the kitchen. There’s talk about banning sugar and other sweets from the menu and the prison’s store to curb pruno production, the report says.

But eliminating pruno won’t be easy. “Pruno is widely used in correctional facilities throughout the country and is an ingrained part of prison culture,” as the investigation of the Utah outbreak noted.

Education about the risks of botulism might help a little. But as long as there are incarcerated men with access to food rich in sugar or starch, pruno is likely to be on tap. [Copyright 2013 NPR]

Leave a Reply

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

Listen Live Now!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

10AM to 11PM On Point

On Point

On Point unites distinct and provocative voices with passionate discussion as it confronts the stories that are at the center of what is important in the world today. Leaving no perspective unchallenged, On Point digs past the surface and into the core of a subject, exposing each of its real world implications.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center