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New Era Canning Issues Vegetable Recall Amid Botulism Fears

Feb 8, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP The New Era Canning Company is issuing yet another botulism recall, the fourth since late December.  This time, New Era of New Era, Michigan is recalling all cans of vegetable products in #10 cans—large cans containing between six and seven pounds—which may have been processed under conditions which could have led to contamination by Clostridium botulinum, the bacterial that causes botulism, a possibly life-threatening illness..

Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin produced by that bacterium.  The classic symptoms of food-borne botulism include double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness.  Infants appear lethargic, feed poorly, are constipated, have a weak cry, and poor muscle tone.  These symptoms are indicative of the muscle paralysis caused by the bacterial toxin; left untreated, symptoms may progress to cause paralysis of the arms, legs, trunk, and respiratory muscles.  Symptoms generally begin 18 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food, but can occur as early as six hours or as late as 10 days.  The respiratory failure and paralysis that occur with severe botulism may require a patient to be placed on a ventilator for weeks; however, if diagnosed early, botulism can be treated with an antitoxin.  While this can prevent patients from worsening, recovery still takes weeks.  Also, physicians may try to remove contaminated food still in the stomach by either inducing vomiting or administering enemas.

According to the New Era vegetable recall notice issued by the Food & Drug Administrion,w hile the UPC code on the can label may be helpful, customers must examine the lot code on the can end to determine whether the can is subject to recall since some distributors may purchase these products from multiple suppliers.  The majority of these products were sold nationwide to food service customers; however, some may have been purchased by consumers. The can codes may be embossed or printed on one of the can ends; some cans may be missing codes and should be assumed to be under the recall.  Anyone with questions can call the FDA at 1-888-SAFEFOOD; customers may contact New Era Canning at 1-800-282-9007 Ext. 111.

The issues were discovered in an FDA inspection.  No product has tested positive and there have been no reports of botulism reported.  New Era, with the FDA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture, is evaluating processes and procedures to determine the cause.

The FDA is advising customers to throw contaminated cans and food away immediately and carefully.  Even small amounts of the toxin ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the eye or a break in the skin can cause serious illness; skin contact should be avoided and hands should be washed immediately after handling the food.  When disposing of the tainted food, double-bag the cans in plastic bags, ensure the bags are tightly closed, and place the bags in a trash receptacle for non-recyclable trash outside the home.  Restaurants and institutions should ensure the products are placed in locked receptacles not accessible to the public.

This is the fourth recall issued by New Era Canning in less than two months.  The New Era Canning botulism recalls started in December,  when the company recalled 1,026 cans of green beans.

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