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Chili Sauce Food Poisoning
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Botulism Chili Sauce Recall Expanded; Castleberry Food Company Plant Responsible

Jul 25, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP

Castleberry’s Food Company expanded its recall of canned food products including hot dog chili sauce that may cause the paralytic infection known as botulism after federal inspectors found that “processing malfunctions” at the company’s packaging plant in Augusta, Georgia had gone unnoticed for longer than was previously thought, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Eighty-five nationally-distributed varieties of canned hot dog chili sauce, beef and Brunswick stew, sausage gravy, chili, barbeque beef and pork, hash, and dog food are now subject to recall, regardless of the “best by” date printed on the cans, because they were packaged at the Castleberry’s facility in Georgia that has been linked to the botulism outbreak.

Castleberry’s originally recalled only the 3 varieties of Castleberry’s Hot Dog Chili Sauce that were directly associated with the four reported botulism cases, but ramped up the consumer warning after federal inspectors visited its Georgia plant.  

“We believe we have isolated the issue to a situation of under-processing on one line of our production facility,” said Steve Mavity, Castelberry’s senior vice president for technical services and quality assurance.   

“We have shut down this line altogether and are recalling all products produced on it,” Mavity said in a press release.    

One product, Castleberry’s Hot Dog Chili Sauce Original, has been directly associated with the four people recently sickened by exposure to the toxic bacteria clostridium botulinum, according to the federal Food and Drug Administration.  

A couple in Indiana and two children in Texas who ate the tainted Castleberry’s chili sauce “became seriously ill and have been hospitalized,” the FDA said in a statement last week.  

The presence of “botulinum toxin” was detected in “leftover chili sauce from an unlabeled sealable bag collected from a patient’s refrigerator,” the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in a press release.  That tainted food was identified as the “Original” variety of Castleberry’s Hot Dog Chili Sauce.

The newly recalled products were distributed across the nation, prompting the FDA to recently expand its campaign to get the canned food off the shelves.  

Recalling all the products that potentially were exposed to bacteria that causes botulism could be difficult because of the diverse brand names under which the canned foods were distributed.  One recalled product, a canned Castleberry’s “chili with beans” concoction, was distributed nationally under at least 18 brands, including Piggly Wiggly, Thrifty Maid, Southern Home, and Big Y, along with the Castleberry’s label.   The four types of canned dog food that were recalled all bear the label of Natural Balance Eatables.   

There are typically about 28 cases of food-borne botulism in the United States each year, most often from foods canned at home, according to the web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

Symptoms of botulism such as blurred or double vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness typically appear after 18 to 36 hours after consuming tainted food.  The CDC advises that individuals who may have eaten some of the Castleberry’s canned food are “very unlikely to develop botulism” if the symptoms have not appeared for two weeks after consumption.  


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