Vacationers warned of botulism threat

Possible botulism contamination has forced the recall of Wal-Mart’s house brand Great Value chili.

Possible botulism contamination has forced the recall of Wal-Mart’s house brand Great Value chili.

Sunday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency sent a memo to regional health boards advising that Wal-Mart’s chili has been recalled, said Yukon government spokesman Dennis Senger.

“We’re not saying that the cans that are actually here in the Yukon are contaminated, but who knows, they might be,” he said.

Cans of the affected chili were removed from Wal-Mart’s shelves Monday, he said.

“Our concern is people who may have purchased the product from Sunday backwards.”

The cans of Great Value Original Chili with Beans and Great Value Hot Chili with Beans, sold in Canada exclusively at Wal-Mart stores, were processed in the Georgia-based plant to which US Food and Drug Administration officials traced the botulism outbreak.

Four Americans were hospitalized earlier this month after eating tainted Castleberry brand hot dog chili sauce.

Botulism is a potentially fatal illness caused by the same bacteria-produced nerve toxin used in cosmetic face-freezing Botox injections.

Botulism can cause slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, blurry vision and progressive muscle weakness that begins in the shoulders and moves down the body.

Botulism becomes fatal when the muscles controlling respiration are paralyzed.

Symptoms can begin six hours after eating tainted foods, or up to two weeks later.

The original recall list issued by the US Food and Drug Administration on July 18 listed only 10 Castleberry products, with “best by” dates of April 30, 2009, through May 22, 2009.

The recall was expanded on Saturday to include all “best by” dates of 92 canned products, including four varieties of Natural Balance’s pet food, called Eatables for Dogs.

“The disease has only been seen occasionally in dogs and has not been reported in cats,” the US Food and Drug Administration’s bulletin states.

Canada’s Public Health Service Agency’s most recent botulism advisory was issued June 8 for a small lot of canned clams and cod liver in Quebec.

In 1995, four unrelated outbreaks hit a total of nine residents of communities around Ungava Bay in Quebec’s northern region of Nunavik.

“Most food-borne outbreaks in Canada are due to home-prepared foods, especially fermented Inuit foods, and improperly stored meat of marine origin; however, some involve commercially prepared foods,” stated a 1996 online article from Canada’s Botulism Reference Service.

Yukon’s Health Services is hoping to reach tourists who may not yet have heard of the massive US recall.

“You have travellers who are coming through, either coming back from Alaska, going to Alaska, going to the Yukon, going to Inuvik, who may have picked up this product on the way or may have purchased it here in Whitehorse,” said Senger.

Yukoners may have also purchased the cans of chili for their cabins.

 “We don’t normally issue food alerts because they can be widespread and a lot of them don’t even apply to here,” said Senger.

A recent example was the E-coli tainted beef, he said.

In the case of the chili, the recall affected a product that was definitely being sold in the Yukon.

Yukoners and travellers who might have purchased canned chili in the US can consult the full recall list on Castleberry’s website.

If you have a recalled product, you are advised to return it to the store for a refund or dispose of it carefully.