WASHINGTON A recall of canned meat products and
dog food made at a Georgia plant due to botulism fears could
involve tens of millions of cans that pose an urgent public
health threat, U.S. officials said on Monday.
U.S. food regulators appealed to consumers and retailers to
find and dispose of the cans.
Two people in Texas and two others in Indiana remain
seriously ill and hospitalized with botulism poisoning
associated with eating Castleberry's Hot Dog Chili Sauce,
"This is a very big recall," David Elder of the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration's office of regulatory affairs told
reporters, deeming it an "urgent public health matter."
"These products can hurt people. And they have to be off
the store shelves. And consumers have to discard any that they
have at home," Elder added.
U.S. officials said an outbreak of botulism due to a
commercially canned food is extremely rare and has not occurred
in the United States in more than three decades.
Castleberry's Food Co. said on Saturday it had voluntarily
expanded a recall of hot dog chili sauce and canned meat
products originally announced on July 18 due to a risk of
botulinum toxin, a bacterium that can cause botulism.
Castleberry's is a unit of Connors Bros. Income Fund's
Bumble Bee Foods division.
The recall by Castleberry's originally affected 10
products. The expanded move involves more than 80 types of
stew, chili, hash and other products as well as pet food sold
under a variety of brand names.
"You're talking about tens of millions of cans that may
have been involved. That doesn't mean that's how many are still
out on shelves. But that's sort of the scale," added Robert
Bracket, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and
U.S. regulators are trying to track down distribution
records from the company, Bracket said, adding that officials
view this as a nationwide recall.
Botulism is a potentially fatal illness. Symptoms include
dizziness, double vision, difficulty in breathing and abdominal
The cans that sickened the four people were produced at the
plant on May 7 and May 8, officials said.
Connors Bros. said it will keep the plant in Augusta,
Georgia, closed until given the all-clear by health officials.
"Production will not resume until FDA is satisfied that all
conditions that resulted in this recall and these dangerous
products have been corrected," Elder said, adding that the FDA
last inspected the plant in February.
Officials said 16 out of 17 cans that have been tested have
turned up positive for the bacterium that causes botulism.
"The decision was made to add an additional layer of
protection and to assure the highest margin of safety by
recalling all products produced on this line, regardless of the
best-by date on the can," said Dave Melbourne, Castleberry's
senior vice president.
Consumers with any questions are urged to view
Castleberry's Web site www.castleberrys.com. A toll-free
hotline is also available at 1-800-203-4412 or 1-888-203-8446.
(Additional reporting by Shallima Maharaj and Scott
Anderson in Toronto)