April 14, 2024

Cheese Sauce Impounded after Valley Oak Food and Fuel Botulism Outbreak

The botulism outbreak at Valley Oak Food and Fuel in Walnut Grove, California may have caused a death. At least one lawsuit has been filed, and all of the patients in this outbreak have been hospitalized. Inspection reports stated that cheese sauce was impounded by a California Department of Public Health Officer.

According to UPI, Martin Galindo, a 37-year-old father from San Francisco, died on May 18, 2017 from botulism poisoning. A GoFundMe page has been set up on his behalf. KGO-TV said he contracted the illness from nacho cheese sauce bought at Valley Oak Food and Fuel. The Sacramento Health and Human Services Department has not confirmed that botulism caused the man’s death or that Mr. Galindo ate food from Valley Oak Food and Fuel.

Nacho Cheese Sauce on Chips

Because the gas station is located near a major freeway, officials are concerned that people traveling out of the area may have purchased the nacho cheese sauce. A botulism alert was issued by the County of Sacramento on May 16, 2017. Clinicians are asked to report all patients with suspect botulism to public health officials immediately, and to consider botulism as a diagnosis for patients presenting with symptoms such as blurred vision, trouble swallowing, and facial weakness.

Lawyer Fred Pritzker

Attorney Fred Pritzker said, “Botulism toxin cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted.” Contact him at 1-888-377-8900.

Attorney Fred Pritzker, who represents people sickened with botulism food poisoning, said, “it is simply tragic that so many families are affected by this outbreak. Eating nacho cheese sauce on a trip should never result in serious injuries and death. Botulism food poisoning can cause paralysis and critical neurological problems and can kill people. These patients and their families may struggle for years on the road to recovery.”

According to inspection reports filed by Sacramento County, officials visited the gas station on May 6 and May 8, 2017. During the May 6 inspection at 7:00 pm, one bag of Montecito nacho cheese tortilla chips was impounded along with a clamshell container of nacho chips. A note on the inspection report states that “No other condiments were being offered at time of reinspection. Only cheese and nachos are sold.”

The food permit for the station was suspended at the first inspection. Failures listed on that report include failure to protect food from contamination, and the statement “there is an ongoing food borne illness investigation regarding botulism” was included. The report also says that “only nonfood items and gas can be purchased until cleared by the Health Officer.”

Then, during the inspection on May 8, 2017, at 4:20 pm, four bags of nacho cheese sauce were impounded. Copies of invoices and receipts were collected. On May 10, 2017, the Sacramento County of Health and Human Services issued a press release that stated “the source of their illnesses appears to be prepared food, particularly nacho cheese sauce.”

On May 8, the facility was reinspected and the permit was reinstated for the sale of prepackaged food items only. The facility was not allowed to “sell open food products such as hot dogs on roller grill, soda drinks from soda fountain, ice, regular, and gourmet coffee beverages.”

The May 16 alert from the County of Sacramento states, “This outbreak is associated with prepared food, particularly nacho cheese sauce, from the Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station in Walnut Grove (Sacramento County). The Sacramento County Environmental Management Department collected the nacho cheese sauce and stopped the sale of all prepared food at Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station on May 6. Nine cases have been identified to date. It is possible that additional cases with compatible illness and exposure exist but have not yet been accurately diagnosed with botulism.”

Clostridium botulinum bacteria is present in soil and is ubiquitous in the environment. When this bacteria gets into food, it forms spores that protect it against heat and adverse conditions. In improperly processed and handled canned and packaged food, the spores can start to grow and produce botulinum toxin. Just 70 micrograms of this toxin can kill an adult.

The symptoms of botulism food poisoning usually start in the head and progress downward in a symmetrical fashion. Early symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, blurred or double vision, drooping eyelids, and slurred speech. Patients often have a dry mouth and difficulty swallowing. As the paralysis moves downward, muscles that support breathing are affected.

Anyone who ate food, especially nacho cheese sauce, at Valley Oak Food and Fuel in Walnut Grove, California, from April 23 to May 5, 2017 and has experienced these symptoms should see a doctor immediately. There is an antidote to the botulinum toxin, but early treatment is the best way to save your life.


Pritzker Hageman law firm helps people sickened and killed by food contaminated with botulinum toxin get answers, compensation and justice. We protect our client’s legal rights. Our lawyers represent families of patients in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits against convenience stores, gas stations, grocery stores, food producers, shippers, restaurants, retailers, and schools. Lawyer Fred Pritzker recently won $7.5 million for a young client sickened with food poisoning. You can call Fred at 1-888-377-8900 or fill out our contact form.


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