Botulism Found in Cans of Chili

Castleberry's Food Company has closed its production facility in Augusta, Ga., after 16 cans of chili sauce tested positive for botulism over the weekend, company officials said Monday.

In addition, the company has hired an outside firm to visit more than 8,500 retailers around the country in an effort to quickly get recalled products off store shelves.

So far, four cases of botulism have been reported - two from Indiana and two from Texas. All four people consumed Hot Dog Chili Sauce Original, a product made by Castleberry's.

On Saturday, Castleberry's expanded its recall of canned meat products that may be connected to a botulism outbreak. It recalled more than 80 types of canned chili, beef stew, corned beef hash and other meat products in addition to the 10 brands it had recalled Thursday.

Company officials said they were working closely with the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture to determine just how widespread the problem is, but they could not provide information about what quantity of the products in question are still on store shelves.

"So that we can devote all available resources to this investigation, we agreed to shut down our entire facility in Augusta. We will not process any more food there until the FDA and the USDA agrees it is appropriate to reopen," said Dave Melbourne, senior vice president for Castleberry's. "And, we have stopped all further product distribution from our centers."

Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by consuming foods with the botulinim toxin, a nerve toxin that left untreated can cause paralysis of the arms, breathing muscles and legs. Symptoms, such as blurred vision and slurred speech, generally begin 18 to 36 hours after eating a contaminated food.

Typically, commercially canned foods are heated long enough and to high enough temperatures to kill the spores. Melbourne confirmed that the botulism occurred in the chili sauce because the product was undercooked.

Out of caution, the company decided to recall all other products produced on that particular production line.

Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Castleberry's at 1-888-203-8446.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)