July 23, 2024

Valley Oak Food and Fuel Botulism Lawsuit Filed as Outbreak in CA Grows

The number of people sickened in the Valley Oak Food and Fuel botulism outbreak in Walnut Grove, California continues to grow. According to the Sacramento County of Health and Human Services, there are now 10 patients involved in the outbreak of botulism linked to nacho cheese sauce prepared and sold at the gas station. The updated case count includes 5 confirmed cases, 3 probable, and 2 suspected.

The first botulism lawsuit was filed against Valley Oak Food and Fuel on Tuesday, May 16, 2017.

Botulism molecule

This outbreak is unusual and tragic for several reasons. Botulism food poisoning is rare, with fewer than 200 cases every year in the United States. With 10 people potentially sickened, this is a relatively large outbreak of botulism poisoning for the U.S. Although there is an antitoxin that can be administered to prevent serious illness after exposure to botulism toxins (neurotoxins), it has to be administered soon after onset of illness to be effective. If this is not done, botulism toxins cause paralysis and other critical injuries that require extensive medical care. In this outbreak, all of the people sickened have been hospitalized, some of them for weeks in intensive care.

Attorney Fred Pritzker, who has represented clients sickened with botulism in lawsuits against corporations, said, “This outbreak highlights several problems that need to be addressed. At some point a food product was contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium that produce botulism toxins, and then it was sold for human consumption. With the advancements in testing technology, this should never happen.”

“In addition to contamination with Clostridium botulinum, at some point the nacho cheese sauce or one of its ingredients was stored at a temperature that allowed the bacterium to produce deadly toxins that, when ingested, cause paralysis,” Fred continued. “When the investigation determines when and why this happened, steps need to be taken to prevent this from happening again.”

The symptoms of botulism food poisoning come on quickly, usually within hours of exposure to the toxin. The first symptoms are usually dry mouth, difficulty speaking and swallowing, and drooping eyelids. Sometimes nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting are present. The paralysis caused by the toxin spreads downwards through the body, in a symmetrical manner. As the paralysis continues, muscles that support and control breathing are affected. If a person receives the botulism anti-toxin quickly, there is a good chance they will live and recover. But if treatment is delayed, up to 65% of these patients die. The outcome will vary with each patient.

Attorney Fred Pritzker is the founder of Pritzker Hageman, P.A., one of the few law firms in the U.S. that practices extensively in the area of food poisoning lawsuits and the sponsor of this news website. The firm has won millions for its clients, including a recent $7.5 million verdict (not a class action) that prompted the introduction of new legislation to protect children from dangerous pathogens.

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