A spicy rice snack pack very nearly turned into the last meal Richard Strang ate. It left him in a four-day induced coma in Wellington Hospital, his stay due to a toxin not seen in New Zealand for more than 30 years.

He was struck down by botulism, a rare and potentially fatal illness caused by a toxin that attacks the nervous system.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said the rice snack he ate contained no preservatives, and "incorrect handling" was thought to be the cause of his illness.

Massey University food safety professor Steve Flint said botulism was incredibly rare in New Zealand but its spores could be found in many products. It was usually found in food that had been canned or preserved.