FDA expands recall of chili and other products linked to botulism cases

    Consumer Reports News: July 25, 2007 03:30 PM

    Toss the chili sauce and trash the hash and other canned meat products and pet foods from Castleberry's ... that's the latest message from officials at the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture, who aren't getting much of a summer break with the steady stream of food-poisoning outbreaks that have occurred recently. This contamination was home grown, after meat and meatless chili products and a variety of other canned-meat products from Castleberry's Food Company, based in Augusta, Georgia, were found to contain botulinum toxin, the agent that causes botulism, a potentially fatal form of food poisoning. Officials are urging consumers to immediately discard any of the recalled products or any foods made with these products, placing them in tightly-closed doubled plastic bags before putting them in the trash.

    The contamination was discovered after two people in Texas and two in Indiana were hospitalized after eating Castleberry's Hot Dog Chili Sauce. Telltale symptoms of botulism are serious and can begin 6 to 12 hours after eating contaminated foods. Symptoms can include double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, and muscle weakness that gradually affects the whole body moving from the shoulders through the legs. Paralysis can affect breathing and quickly become fatal, so seeking prompt medical attention is imperative.

    There are also some pet foods included in the recall. Dogs and ferrets are vulnerable to botulinum toxin and should get prompt treatment if they show symptoms such as progressive paralysis, difficulty breathing or chewing, or general weakness, which can occur as soon as two hours or as late as two weeks after eating contaminated food.

    Food poisoning from botulism is normally rare, with about 30 cases occurring each year, often attributed to home canning. It occurs when the bacteria known as Clostridium botulinum, widely present as harmless spores in normal garden soil and the general environment, grow and produce a potent nerve toxin when contaminated foods are stored in airtight containers. Heating the foods to the proper temperature before storage is key to killing the spores and any harmful toxins that may be present. However, once food is contaminated it's impossible to be sure that all the toxins are eliminated. That's why it's important to throw away all contaminated products.

    The recall affects many different products and Castleberry's voluntarily took the commendable step of expanding the recall to cover all products that may have been made on the defective production line over the past two years, which could include millions of cans. Consumers should heed the warnings and discard any products that may be affected by the recall. You can find a full list of the recalled products on Castleberry's Web site at: www.castleberrys.com or call the company's hotline at 1-800-203-4412.

    The FDA's report on the recall can be found on the agency's web site and the federal Centers for Disease Control has a helpful Q&A on botulism on its site.


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