Castleberry's Food Company plant closed because of botulism

After 16 cans of chili sauce tested positive for botulism over the weekend Castleberry's Food Company has closed its production facility in Augusta, Georgia.

So far, four cases of botulism have been reported - two from Indiana and two from Texas. All four people consumed Hot Dog Chili Sauce Original, a product made by Castleberry's.

The company has hired an outside firm to visit more than 8,500 retailers around the United States in an effort to quickly get recalled products off store shelves. It also has stopped all product distribution from its centers.

On Saturday, Castleberry's expanded its recall of canned meat products that may be connected to a botulism outbreak. It recalled more than 80 types of canned chili, beef stew, corned beef hash and other meat products in addition to the 10 brands it had recalled Thursday.

Company officials said they were working closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture to determine just how widespread the problem is, but they could not provide information about what quantity of the products in question are still on store shelves.

Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by consuming foods with the botulinum toxin, a nerve toxin that, left untreated, can cause paralysis of the arms, breathing muscles and legs. Symptoms, such as blurred vision and slurred speech, generally begin 18 to 36 hours after eating a contaminated food.

Typically, commercially canned foods are heated long enough and to high enough temperatures to kill the spores. Dave Melbourne, senior vice president for Castleberry's, confirmed that the botulism occurred in the chili sauce because the product was undercooked.

Out of caution, the company decided to recall all other products produced on that particular production line.