Man dies in California botulism outbreak from nacho-cheese

Posted May 27, 2017

Gas station nacho cheese that sickened 10 people and killed one of them was contaminated with botulinum toxin, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) confirmed Monday.

Inside Valley Oak Food and Fuel there's no sign of a nacho cheese dispenser now, but there is an empty counter that's roped off - prepared food hasn't been sold at the store since May 5, according to Sacramento County Public Health.

Spokesmen for the state health agency said they did not immediately whether authorities think the contamination occurred at the station or were checking other gas stations and the maker of the cheese sauce. Family members wrote on a GoFundMe page that Galindo had fallen into a coma and had been declared clinically brain-dead after contracting a rare case of botulism. Foodborne botulism is spread through the consumption of contaminated food. CDPH officers seized four bags of cheese sauce from the gas station.

The CDPH said it doesn't believe there is any continued threat to the public because the contaminated sauce was removed from sale on May 5.

Symptoms of botulism include, double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth and muscle weakness.

Gas station food has a history of being somewhat risky. It also sent samples to an independent lab which confirmed the findings.

The cheese in question is from Gehl Foods in Wisconsin, the Sacramento Bee reports, and comes in large, shelf-stable pouches.

At least six victims are taking legal action against the gas station and Gehl Foods, said Bill Marler, a food safety attorney who is representing the patients. A rather uncommon paralytic illness, botulism may result from a number of different situations; the foodborne variety is caused by "the consumption of foods containing pre-formed botulinum toxin", according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A major outbreak of food-borne botulism in 2015, when at least 29 people fell ill, was traced to a church potluck in Ohio.

The National Organization for Rare Disorders says there were 199 confirmed and 14 probable cases of botulism reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2015, the previous year for which statistics were available. The cheese dip was distributed by Gehl Foods.