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FDA NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 21, 2007

Media Inquiries:
Michael Herndon, 301-827-9182
Consumer Inquiries:
888-INFO-FDA

FDA Warns About Potential for Botulism in Canned Green Beans
New Era Canning Company Voluntarily Recalls Product

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers about a potential Clostridium botulinum  (C. botulinum) contamination of canned cut green beans manufactured by New Era Canning Company, New Era, Mich., and labeled as "GFS Fancy Blue Lake Cut Green Beans." C. botulinum is the bacterium that causes botulism.

The bacterium produces a toxin that can result in a life-threatening illness or death. To date, no illnesses have been reported in connection with this incident. 

The canned cut green beans were distributed to retailers, restaurants and foodservice institutions by Gordon Food Service, Grand Rapids, Mich., with lot code 19H7FL and UPC code 93901 11873, in large institutional-sized, 6 pound 5 ounce (#10) cans.  The green beans were distributed to food service customers in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia and sold through GFS Marketplace stores in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. There is no evidence of primary distribution outside the United States.

Customers who have the affected cans of cut green beans or who have used the green beans in recipes should throw cans and food away immediately. Any food that may be contaminated should be disposed of carefully. Even tiny amounts of the C. botulinum toxin ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the eye or a break in the skin can cause serious illness. Skin contact should be avoided as much as possible, and the hands should be washed immediately after handling the food.

When disposing of this product, double-bag the cans in plastic bags.  Make sure the bags are tightly closed, then place in a trash receptacle for non-recyclable trash outside of the home.  Restaurants and institutions should ensure that such products are only placed in locked receptacles that are not accessible to the public. Additional instructions for safe disposal may be found at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/botulism_g.htm.  Anyone with questions can call FDA at 1-888-SAFEFOOD.

As part of this ongoing investigation, FDA is working closely with Michigan Department of Agriculture state officials and New Era to identify all products that may be involved.  Michigan Department of Agriculture, under its state authority, seized most canned products in the company's warehouses. New Era is voluntarily recalling 171 cases of the green beans (6 cans per case). 

Symptoms of botulism poisoning in humans can begin from 6 hours to 2 weeks after eating food that contains the toxin. Symptoms may include double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, and muscle weakness that moves progressively down the body, affecting the shoulders first, then descending to the upper arms, lower arms, thighs, and calves. Botulism poisoning also can cause paralysis of the breathing muscles, which can result in death unless assistance with breathing (mechanical ventilation) is provided. Individuals who have these symptoms and who may have recently eaten the cut green beans currently under recall or other food products made with these green beans should seek immediate medical attention.  

FDA learned of the potential contamination on Dec. 20, when testing of product collected during an FDA inspection showed a presumptive positive result for C. botulinum. This incident illustrates the important health protection role that FDA inspections play and the need for firms to have adequate preventive control systems in place.  Prevention of foodborne illness is a key element of the FDA's new Food Protection Plan, launched November 6, 2007.

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