Castleberry's Food Company Botulism Outbreak Litigation - Nationwide (2007)


In July of 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and public health officials in Texas and Indiana joined to investigate a botulism outbreak. Four outbreak victims – siblings from Texas and a married couple from Indiana – had been hospitalized with botulism after eating Castleberry’s hot dog chili sauce.

On July 18, FDA issued a consumer advisory regarding the presence of botulinum toxin in Castleberry’s brand chili products and Castleberry’s Food Company issued a voluntary recall that included a limited number of production dates of Castleberry’s Hot Dog Chili Sauce Original, Castleberry’s Austex Hot Dog Chili Sauce Original, and Kroger Hot Dog Chili Sauce. The recall was expanded on July 21 to include all production dates for 91 types of canned chili sauce, chili, other meat products, chicken products, and dog food that were manufactured in the same set of cookers, or “retorts” as the hot dog chili sauce at the Castleberry’s facility in Augusta, Georgia.

By August 24, eight cases of botulism had been reported to the CDC. In addition to the Indiana couple, the mother of the children in Texas had developed symptoms of botulism, which brought the total number of Castleberry-associated cases in Texas to three. There were also three unrelated residents of Ohio who had developed botulism after consuming Castleberry’s hot dog chili sauce. Botulinum toxin was identified in leftover chili sauce collected from the refrigerator belonging to one of the Ohio cases.

On July 18 and 19, a team of FDA investigators was sent to the firm’s warehouse to collect samples of Castleberry’s products for testing. Of 17 swollen cans obtained from the Castleberry’s facility, 16 tested positive for Clostridium Botulinum (C. Botulinum) toxin. Several other tests revealed C. Botulinum toxin in additional cans of Castleberry’s chili products.

FDA inspectors conducted testing at the Castleberry plant and observed several food safety violations. After its inspection, FDA cited Castleberry’s for the “failure to maintain fixtures in repair sufficient to prevent food from becoming adulterated.”

Marler Clark represented an Ohio man and an Indiana couple in botulism claims against Castleberry’s. All claims have been resolved.