February 24, 2024

Botulism in California: Lawyer Provides Information You Need to Know

At least seven people, in two apparently unrelated outbreaks, are sick with botulism food poisoning in California. Five or six people are hospitalized in serious condition in Walnut Grove, California, in connection with prepared food they purchased from the Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station. And two others are sick after drinking herbal tea produced by U.S. Deer Antlers Experts and Imports.

Botulism molecule

What is botulism? And why is botulism food poisoning so serious? Food Poisoning Bulletin interviewed attorney Fred Pritzker about this toxin and its effects.

Fred said, “Botulism is one of the most deadly nerve toxins known to man. This compound is produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria and can cause paralysis and death when consumed.

“These two outbreaks are unusual because one may have been caused by prepared food, and the other was caused by problems with herbal tea. Botulism food poisoning outbreaks are usually linked to improperly canned foods.”

Fred added, “Improper handling during manufacturing or at the retail level can cause this type of contamination. We don’t know the conditions under which the suspect foods were prepared, or if they were held at the wrong temperature or under insanitary conditions. We will know more as investigations progress. The CDC has more information about botulism, its symptoms, and how to prevent this type of serious food poisoning.”

Attorney Fred Pritzker

Attorney Fred Pritzker, who has represented people sickened with botulism, said, “This type of food poisoning can affect some people for life.” Call 1-888-377-8900.

We asked how often this illness is diagnosed, and if the illness is serious. Fred replied, “While botulism food poisoning is rare in the United States, with fewer than 200 cases per year, the effects are very serious. It only takes about 70 micrograms of the toxin to kill a person. If someone ingests this toxin and does not receive immediate medical treatment with an anti-toxin, there is a 35 to 65% chance of death. Timely treatment with the anti-toxin can reduce the death rate to about 6%. And even when a person recovers, they can face huge medical and rehabilitation bills.”

Past cases of botulism have been linked to improperly canned vegetables, potato salad made from home canned potatoes, homemade alcohol, fermented fish, potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil, honey, and herbs in oil. There have been many recalls of products in the past few years for the risk of botulism.

Fred told us that the toxin causes paralysis of the muscles in the body. The paralysis usually progresses symmetrically and downward through the body. Symptoms of botulism poisoning can include nausea and vomiting, lethargy, dizziness, double vision or blurred vision, dry mouth and throat, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing, slurred speech, muscle aches, weakness. Paralysis can follow, from top to bottom, and paralyzes the muscles you use to breathe.

He added that early treatment of botulism food poisoning is critical to a good outcome. Recovery can still take weeks or months, even with supportive care.

We don’t know what prepared foods may be responsible for the outbreak in Walnut Grove, California. And we also don’t know exactly how the herbal tea was contaminated. We’ll keep you informed as we learn more about these outbreaks.

We asked if it was possible to avoid this type of food poisoning. Fred answered, “It is impossible to tell if a food is contaminated with the botulinum toxin. The toxin doesn’t change the texture of the food or how the food tastes, smells, or looks. The best way to protect yourself is to know the symptoms of botulism food poisoning, and if you are experiencing them, see a doctor as soon as possible.

“Symptoms usually appear within 12 to 72 hours after eating food contaminated with the toxin. Treatment is available in the form of an anti-toxin, which is only available through hospitals and the government. There can be long term consequences from this illness, and some people never fully recover, which can be a huge financial burden.”



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