Thursday, July 26, 2007

How's that chili (sauce)?

Tens of millions of cans of chili, chili sauce, beef stew, corned beef and dog food are being recalled nationwide because of possible contamination with the deadly botulinum toxin, the Food and Drug Administration said Monday.

The recalled cans cover more than 90 brands and every "best by" date on the market. Four cases of botulism, two in Texas and two in Indiana, have been traced to the contaminated foods. The four patients were all hospitalized but are recovering, says Michael Lynch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Botulism can cause paralysis. Symptoms, including blurred vision and slurred speech, can occur 18 to 36 hours after eating tainted food.

Georgia-based Castleberry Food Co., a subsidiary of Bumble Bee Seafoods, first issued a recall Wednesday after the botulism cases were traced back to its Hot Dog Chili Sauce Original. Nine other products also were included in that recall.

The recall was expanded Saturday to include 80 brands made at the Augusta, Ga., processing plant. Although only the chili sauces have been linked to the illnesses, Castleberry's is recalling everything made on that manufacturing line.

FIND MORE STORIES IN: Food and Drug Administration Botulism
RECALLED ITEMS: Complete list

FDA advised consumers to search their cupboards and shelves for any of the products, which are identified with a USDA seal that has "Est. 195" printed on it. Those cans should not be opened under any circumstances, says Robert Brackett, director of FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

"Discard them immediately. Double-bag the cans in plastic bags that are tightly closed, then place them in a trash receptacle outside the home," Brackett says.
Botulinum is so toxic that it can cause paralysis merely by breathing it in or exposing it to broken skin, he says.

The plant produced more than 10,000 24-can cases of products a day. "That's a lot of product," says David Elder of FDA's Office of Enforcement. "These products can hurt, and they have to be taken off store shelves."

The problem appeared to stem from a particular bank of retorts, large vessels used to heat canned foods to temperatures above 250 degrees to kill botulism spores.

When FDA sent testers in, they found 17 swollen and bulging cans — a classic sign of botulism — and 16 of those tested positive for the toxin, Elder said. All were produced late in the day on May 7 or early in the day on May 9, he said.

The company extended the recall out of caution.

Botulism in commercially canned foods is extremely rare. The FDA last recorded a case in 1971.
Consumers can find more information at or by calling 800-203-4412 or 888-203-8446.

USA Today Article

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