Company recalls canned beans with possibly fatal toxin

By Brittany Abeijon

Illinois residents have been warned not to eat cans of green beans and garbanzo beans recalled by New Era Canning Company because they may cause botulism.

All canned green beans and garbanzo beans that have been distributed by New Era Canning Company – based in New Era, Mich. – nationwide over the last five years were recalled because they may have been processed under conditions that lead to the production of botulism toxin, which can cause life-threatening illness or death.

New Era produces canned products under other brand names and labels, so the recalled products may not be labeled with New Era’s name. According to the Food and Drug Administration, “Blue Lake” mixed and shortcut green beans in 6 lb., 5 oz. cans in Bunny brand, distributed by Bunn Capitol Co., in Springfield, Ill., have also been recalled.

Melanie Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, said that as of now, there have been no reported cases of botulism in Illinois related to the recall. According to a Feb. 7 press release from the FDA, “No product has tested positive for the toxin and there have been no cases of botulism reported from these products.”

“We have been doing testing, but there are not any positive results,” Arnold said.

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Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum and symptoms can occur in as little as six hours after the beans are consumed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site.

The site said botulism symptoms include: double vision, blurred vision, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing and muscle weakness that moves progressively down the body. Foodborne botulism is only one type of botulism, but all forms of the illness can be fatal and are considered medical emergencies.

The illness may result in death due to respiratory failure, but patients who survive botulism poisoning may have fatigue and shortness of breath for years, and long-term therapy may be needed to aid recovery.

According to health statistics provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health, there was only one case of foodborne botulism in Illinois in 2006.

The FDA is asking people to dispose any of the recalled canned beans carefully because even small amounts of the toxin can cause serious illness when ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the eye or a break in the skin. Skin contact should be avoided as much as possible, and hands should be washed immediately after handling the food.