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WASHINGTON -- Last week's recall by Augusta, Ga.-based Castleberry's Food Co., which included more than 90 potentially-harmful products -- such as hot dog chili sauce, various types of dog food, chili with meat and corned beef hash -- grew more urgent as botulism-breeding bacteria in the cans is causing them to burst, The Associated Press reported.
The recall potentially covers tens of millions of cans of food, and officials fear that tally will grow. Federal health officials issued warnings to consumers and retailers to eliminate the products from pantries and store shelves, the report stated. However, spot checks by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state officials found recalled products for sale in convenience stores, gas stations and family-run groceries, the AP reported.
The FDA found recalled products for sale in roughly 250 of the more than 3,700 stores visited during nationwide checks. Four people have been sickened and hospitalized by the contaminated food, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"It has been a problem getting the message out. We're having a problem reaching the smaller stores," Lynae Granzow, an epidemiologist with the Indiana Department of Health, told the AP.
Officials in Florida, Kentucky, Montana, New York, Indiana and elsewhere are finding recalled products in stores, especially smaller, mom-and-pop operations, the report stated. In North Carolina, officials removed 5,500 cans from approximately one-third of the 250 stores checked last week, said Joe Reardon, who oversees food protection for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
"We're not going to quit. These numbers are too high," Reardon said.
In Massachusetts, health inspectors found recalled products in less than 50 small stores, mostly in the Boston area, state Department of Public Health spokeswoman Donna Rheaume told the AP.
The FDA is asking retailers and foodservice establishments to isolate recalled products from other stock and secure and tag for pickup or disposal, as directed by Castleberry's or their designee, according to the FDA Web site. It also warns not to puncture or otherwise open cans prior to disposal.
FDA investigators believe Castleberry Food failed to properly cook some or all the products, allowing the Clostridium botulinum bacteria -- which produces a toxin that causes botulism, a muscle-paralyzing disease -- to survive the canning process.
"We're not talking here about a bug that lands you in the bathroom for a few days with diarrhea. We're talking about a toxin that puts you in the intensive care unit," Dr. David Acheson, the FDA's lead food safety expert, told the AP. "This is foodborne illness with an extra kick in it, big time."
The bacteria produces gases that can cause contaminated cans to swell and burst. Health officials told the AP the potent toxin can infect people if it is inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the eye or breaks in the skin.
"The longer this stuff stays in the can, the worse it gets," Acheson said.
While it was not immediately clear how many cans had burst, earlier FDA tests on 17 bulging cans at Castleberry's found 16 that contained the toxin, according to the report.
To review the UPCs and brands of affected products, click the link below: