New Era Green Bean Recall Sparks Fears of Botulism Outbreak

A canned green bean recall has been issued amid botulism fears. New Era Canning Company in Michigan said Friday that it was voluntarily recalling 1,026 cans of green beans because they may be contaminated with bacteria that cause <"">botulism, a life-threatening illness.  New Era Canning Company said it was recalling 171 cases of GFS (Gordon Food Service) Fancy Blue Lake Cut Green Beans with the lot code 19-H-7FL and UPC 939-0111-873.  Each case contained six cans in six-pound, five-ounce sizes.  The canned green beans were distributed to food service customers in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia and were sold through GFS Marketplace stores in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee.  The potential contamination was discovered through testing by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Clostridium botulinum can cause life-threatening illness or death; however, no illnesses have been reported to date.  Consumers should not eat the beans even if they do not look or smell spoiled.  “New Era Canning in conjunction with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Michigan Department of Agriculture is thoroughly evaluating all processes and procedures to determine the cause of the problem,” the company said.

Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum.  The classic symptoms of foodborne botulism include double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness.  Infants appear lethargic, feed poorly, are constipated, have a weak cry, and poor muscle tone.  These symptoms are indicative of the muscle paralysis caused by the bacterial toxin; left untreated, symptoms may progress to cause paralysis of the arms, legs, trunk, and respiratory muscles.  Symptoms generally begin 18 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food, but can occur as early as six hours or as late as 10 days.

The respiratory failure and paralysis that occur with severe botulism may require a patient to be placed on a ventilator for weeks; however, if diagnosed early, botulism can be treated with an antitoxin.  While this can prevent patients from worsening, recovery still takes weeks.  Also, physicians may try to remove contaminated food still in the stomach by either inducing vomiting or administering enemas.

The FDA is advising customers to throw contaminated cans and food away immediately and carefully.  Even small amounts of the toxin ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the eye or a break in the skin can cause serious illness; skin contact should be avoided and hands should be washed immediately after handling the food.  When disposing of the tainted food, double-bag the cans in plastic bags, ensure the bags are tightly closed, and place the bags in a trash receptacle for non-recyclable trash outside the home.  Restaurants and institutions should ensure the products are placed in locked receptacles not accessible to the public.

The FDA is working closely with Michigan Department of Agriculture state officials and New Era to identify all products that may be involved.  Michigan Department of Agriculture, under its state authority, seized most canned products in the company’s warehouses.

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