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San Diego Woman First Botulism Victim in California

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Millions of Castleberry Tainted Meat Products Recalled for Botulism Poisoning
Federal agencies must hold food manufacturers and providers accountable for their products. But how on earth are they going to do it if they don’t inspect food production facilities as often as they should? Over the last year or so, we’ve seen a slew of recalls and hundreds if not thousands of people and animals sickened or killed nationwide by food that should not have been in our homes in the first place.

Last week, the botulism related to tainted meat products that spurred a massive recall, found its first victim in California. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, a 51-year-old San Diego woman reportedly became sick and was hospitalized for 10 days this month after eating Kroger Chili Beans, a Castleberry product that was part of the recall. San Diego public health officials say she is recovering in her home, but that they could not confirm she contracted botulism from the chili because she did not keep the can.

This is exactly why food-borne illnesses cases are tough to prove. You’ve just eaten part of the evidence and thrown the rest away. Unless medical lab testing is conducted early, there is no physiological evidence of what made you sick.

Castleberry, which is based in Augusta, Ga., last week recalled millions of cans of meat products after a huge botulism scare – the worst one involving commercial canned goods in 30 years, according to a news article in the Kansas City Star.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website, the products tainted with the deadly bacteria include more than 80 brands of chili sauce made by a company called Castleberry in Augusta, Ga. — corned beef hash and beef stew sold under various brand names including Bryan, Kroger, Piggly Wiggly, Food Lion and Thrifty Maid. FDA officials also believe that these foods are likely to be sold at hundreds of smaller retail outlets and stocked in church pantries and food banks because they are non-perishable foods.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, symptoms of botulism include trouble swallowing, weakness or dizziness and labored breathing. It could also cause muscle weakness, severe abdominal pain and constipation. In extreme cases it can cause death.

The Kansas City Star reports that so far two people have been hospitalized n Indiana and Texas after eating Castleberry’s hot dog chili sauce. The contaminated sauce was mainly produced on May 7 and May 8, but some of the products were manufactured as far back as two years ago. Officials have shut down the Georgia plant as they are investigating what caused the contamination. The FDA says consumers who have purchased these contaminated foods should double-bag the cans and throw them in a trash container outside their homes. The bacteria may also spread if the cans are opened or if they explode because of bacteria build-up.

For a complete list of recalled products made by Castleberry, visit their Web site. If you find recalled products in a store, notify store management and call the California Public Health Department at 1-800-495-5232.

Investigators are still looking into what caused the food to be contaminated and are focusing on a production line at the plant where food temperatures may not have been high enough to kill botulism spores.

The question now is: How are safety agencies going to protect the public and prevent these outbreaks in the future? It’s a known fact that federal, state and local safety agencies don’t have the staff strength to inspect manufacturing plants, foods that are imported into the country and food service areas such as school cafeterias and restaurants. The result is no effective enforcement of existing laws and regulations.

The food industry is rarely held accountable for contaminated food illnesses. Proving a food borne illness case is very challenging. In order to hold a food processes or seller liable for a food borne illness, the sickened person must prove that their illness was caused by a particular food product that was acquired from the party to be held accountable. When there are delays in symptoms for days, how does one prove which food product was the culprit?
What can you do to protect your rights? Like any other injury case, evidence is king. Save your evidence.

If you suspect you have the symptoms of a food-borne illness such as botulism, E-Coli or salmonella poisoning, make sure that you let your doctor know and that lab tests are performed to identify exactly what organism was present in your system. If possible, save the jar, can or bag that the tainted food came in. Save similar unused products that you may have in your pantry or refrigerator.

If you suspect your illness came from eating at a restaurant, file a complaint with your local health care agency.

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