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Botulism Causing Castleberry’s Recalled Canned Foods to Literally Burst

Jul 27, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP

Recalled chili sauce, hot dog sauce and other canned meat products manufactured by Castleberry’s Food Company are so infested with botulism that some of them are literally bursting.  Word of the botulism laced bursting cans gives last week’s recall of 90 varieties of chili sauce, dog foods and other products a new urgency.  That’s because unlike other food borne pathogens, botulism toxins can be absorbed through the skin and even inhaled.  That means that even people who never ate the contaminated product could be at risk for the deadly illness.

There is also news that not all grocery stores have gotten word of the recall.  The chili sauce as well as upwards of 90 other varieties of canned products produced by Castleberry were recalled over a week ago.  So far, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has found recalled Castleberry’s products in about 350 stores.  The botulism tainted products have shown up in stores in several states, including Florida, Kentucky, Montana, New York and Indiana.  And in North Carolina, officials found 5,500 cans in stores there.  Most have been found at gas stations, convenience stores and “mom and pop” groceries.  The fact that these cans could rupture while in stores has health official worried, because that could potentially expose thousands of people to deadly botulism bacteria.  The FDA is said that it is making efforts to more effectively disseminate news of the recall, and Castleberry’s has hired a company to assist with the removal of cans from stores.

Botulism bacteria love warm, moist environments – exactly the environment found in a can of food.  As the bacteria reproduce inside a can, gasses are emitted.  The building pressure of the gas inside the can often causes it to rupture.  So far, all of the cans that ruptured were ones that were returned to Castleberry’s in the recall, but there is no guarantee that will continue to be the case.

This is the first botulism scare in over 40 years that has been linked to a commercially produced food.   So far, four people in Texas and Indiana are confirmed to have contracted botulism from Castleberry’s hot dog chili sauces.  The FDA said that a malfunctioning cooker at the company’s Augusta, Georgia plant allowed the contamination to occur.  

Botulism is an extremely dangerous disease that can lead to paralysis and even death.  It is characterized by blurred vision, drooping eyelids, muscle weakness, slurred speech and difficulty swallowing.  If not treated promptly, botulism can paralyze breathing muscles, and patients can spend months on ventilators waiting for the toxin to wear off.

Because the cans have the potential to rupture, the FDA is telling anyone who still has recalled products in their pantry to double bag the cans and dispose of them in regular trash.  The cans should never be recycled.


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