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Botulism Outbreak, Death Linked to Nacho Cheese Sauce


One person is dead and at least nine others have been hospitalized after contracting botulism from eating contaminated nacho cheese sauce at a California gas station.

About the Botulism Outbreak and Resulting Death

According to reports, 37-year-old Martin Galindo-Larios died Thursday after spending several weeks in the hospital. Gilando-Larios is one of at least 10 people who contracted botulism after eating contaminated nacho cheese purchased at Valley Oak Food and Fuel, just outside of Sacramento.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) confirmed Monday that cheese sauce samples collected from Valley Oak Food and Fuel tested positive for toxins released by Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria that cause botulism. The toxins matched those identified in patients tested by the CDPH.

The gas station stopped selling the cheese sauce on May 5, and the producer of the cheese sauce, Gehl Foods, says retested samples from the relevant lot of cheese remain clear of any contamination. As such, a recall has not been issued for the cheese sauce.

Among those still hospitalized are two teenagers and a 33-year-old Sacramento mother, identified as Lavinia Kelly. Kelly is in intensive care and unable to speak due to paralysis. At least six victims have taken legal action against Valley Oak Food and Fuel and Gehl Foods.

What is Botulism?

Botulism is a rare illness that is transmitted through food, contact with contaminated soil, and through open wounds. Botulism is a very serious illness and can result in paralysis and death if not treated quickly.

Symptoms of foodborne botulism generally appear bout 12 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food. Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Blurred vision
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps

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