In the wake of multiple scares associated with contamination of foreign food and personal care product imports, the U.S. is now getting a closer look at how health scares can occur even within our own country. Despite recent ridicule of the FDA (much of which is valid), they often do a rather stand-up job of protecting consumer safety. The most recent reference of this being the recall of contaminated 10-ounce cans of hot dog chili sauce, manufactured by Castleberry’s, Austex and Kroger. These products, with expiration dates of April 30, 2009 through May 22, 2009, may contain the bacterium Clostridium botulinum.
Clostridium botulinum is the bacterium associated with botulism, a paralytic illness that can often result in death if respiratory failure ensues from the nerve toxin released by the bacterium. However, most cases of botulism are treatable upon diagnosis, despite the fact that recovery can be a rather lengthy process. Botulism has not been as large of an issue as it once was because current manufacturing processes are quite thorough with their canning processes, heating foods for long enough and at high enough temperatures to eliminate the bacterium. However, mistakes do happen. And it is reassuring to know that this instance of contamination was noted in a timely manner and the recall of the products made public by both the companies themselves and the FDA.
So we reinstate a small portion of our faith in the FDA. Yet, a valuable lesson to take away is that even with very stringent safety procedures, it is nearly impossible to completely eliminate incidence. And though botulism has not been a major issue within the past twenty-some years, it still exists. Spores of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum are the reason that we are told not to feed infants honey before the age of one. Also, the USDA provides a Home Canning Guide to assist do-it-yourselfers in SAFELY canning their own fruits and vegetables. On a side note, small amounts of the toxin produced by the bacterium are used in the cosmetic Botox injection. Bacteria and disease are a part of everyday life and consistent knowledge and awareness are the tools to preventing harmful results. And despite our doubt and apprehension, “FDA approved” still provides quite a bit of reassurance.