Two Canadians Paralyzed After Drinking Botulism-Contaminated Carrot Juice

Two Toronto-area residents are paralyzed and in serious condition after drinking carrot juice tainted by botulism. The two new cases bring the total number of recent botulism victims to six. Four other cases have appeared in the U.S. over the last two weeks. In all cases, the contaminated carrot juice was traced to Bakersfield, California-based Bolthouse Farms.

According to Toronto Public Health, their “inspectors have visited close to 800 stores in the past few days to ensure the brands of carrot juice linked to botulism here and in the United States are not being sold.” Yet, according to a spokesperson at the department, the juice was still on the shelves in at least 10 stores, despite a voluntary recall by Bolthouse Farms.

On September 30, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to consumers “not to drink Bolthouse Farms Carrot Juice, 450 ml and 1 liter plastic bottles, with ‘BEST IF USED BY’ dates of Nov. 11, 2006 or earlier.” The FDA also urged consumers to make sure they keep all carrot juice, even pasteurized carrot juice, refrigerated at or below 40°F. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had issued its own health hazard alert on September 30 as well. Three cases in Georgia and one in Florida were reported by the FDA during the last two weeks of September.

Bolthouse responded with a recall of all of their carrot-juice products in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, which includes juice produced under the brands Bolthouse Farms, Earthbound Farm Organic, and President’s Choice Organic. The company also reiterated the importance of keeping “low acid products” such as carrot juice refrigerated.

Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. According to the CDC, an average of 110 cases of botulism are reported each year in the United States, although only 25 percent of these cases are food-borne. Symptoms of botulism can include double vision, droopy eyelids, altered voice, trouble speaking or swallowing, and paralysis on both sides of the body that progresses from the neck down, possibly followed by difficulty in breathing. Although paralysis can be contained by antitoxins, any paralysis that has occurred prior to treatment cannot be reversed. Anyone who has experienced any of these symptoms after drinking carrot juice should seek immediate medical attention.

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