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Castleberry Chili Sauce Recalled as Botulism Leaves Four Hospitalized

Jul 20, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP

Hot dog chili sauce has been linked to four cases of botulism poisoning in Texas and Indiana.  The chili sauce was produced by the Castleberry’s Food Company in Augusta, Georgia.  It was sold under the brand names Castleberry’s, Kroger and Austex’s and came in 10 ounce cans.  

As a result of the Botulism outbreak, Castleberry’s is recalling 10 varieties of its canned products with “best buy” dates of April 30, 2009 and May 22, 2009.  In addition to the chili sauce, those products include corned beef hash under the brand names Morton House, Southern Home and Meijer; chili with beans under the brands Castle Drive and Castleberry’s; as well as Bunker Hill Chili with No Beans and Castleberry’s Barbecue Pork.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers to throw away cans of the chili sauce, as well as any food made with the sauce. Castleberry’s products are sold in 23 states.

Two children from Texas and an Indiana couple were hospitalized last month with botulism.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said that all of the individuals had eaten the hot dog sauce.  The CDC started testing the suspect products on July 11, and received results Monday that pointed to the chili sauce as the culprit in the outbreak.

This is the first outbreak of botulism related to commercially canned foods in more than forty years.  The disease can cause paralysis and leads to death in about eight percent of cases.  Fewer than 30 incidences of the disease are reported each year, and they are almost always linked to home canning.  Botulism has become so rare that most people know it only as a wrinkle reducer called Botox.   Symptoms of botulism include blurred vision, drooping eyelids, muscle weakness, slurred speech and difficulty swallowing.  If not treated properly, botulism can paralyze breathing muscles.  Victims can spend months on ventilators until the botulism toxin is out of their system.

The recall covers products produced at the Augusta factory between April 30 and May 22 on a cooker that had malfunctioned.  To guard against the formation of botulism toxin, canned foods are heated during processing to kill the bacteria.  The cooker at the Castleberry factory was dropping cans into cool water while they were still hot.  The company says it followed procedures to check the products before they left the factory.

Castleberry’s is owned by Bumble Bee Seafood in San Diego, California.  It produces a variety of canned products under a several brand names, and it makes store-brand products for supermarkets like Kroger.  Castleberry is offering refunds to anyone who purchased a recalled product.


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