Valley Oak Food and Fuel Botulism Outbreak

In April 2017, 10 people were hospitalized in a botulism outbreak linked to nacho cheese sauce prepared and sold at Valley Oak Food and Fuel in Walnut Grove, CA. 

Our team of food poisoning lawyers is representing a woman who was sickened in this outbreak. Click here to read more about our investigation: “Valley Oak Food and Fuel Linked to Botulism, Law Firm Investigating.”

Sacramento County Public Health, which made the connection between the illnesses and the gas station, is working closely with the Sacramento County Department of Environmental Management to stop the sale of prepared food items at this location.

Botulism Outbreak Investigations in the United States

Each year, about 10 to 30 cases of botulism are reported in the U.S. Botulism is a rare but life-threatening illness caused by consuming food contaminated with Clostridium botulinum bacteria, which produce a toxin that attacks the body’s nervous system. Determining the source of a botulism outbreak is based on detection and identification of the toxin in food.

Clostridium Botulinum from the CDC
Clostridium botulinum bacteria

The most common method to determine whether a food sample contains the toxin that causes botulism is a mouse neutralization test followed by a bacteria culture test. If a doctor suspects botulism, the patient will need to be treated before a confirmed diagnosis. If not, the patient could die.

If two or more people in the U.S. are diagnosed with botulism food poisoning, state and federal health officials try to determine if the illnesses are related and, if so, try to find the food responsible. Because the incubation period is short, a food source is more easily

If two or more people in the U.S. are diagnosed with botulism food poisoning, health officials start an investigation to:

  1. Determine whether the illnesses are related
  2. Identify the food source

Since the incubation period for botulism is so short, investigators are able to identify a food source more easily than with other foodborne pathogens.

What Foods Cause Botulism?

Most botulism outbreaks are associated with poorly processed home-canned foods. However, commercially-produced food products also cause illness. Two separate botulism outbreaks have occurred involving commercially canned salmon. Restaurant foods such as sautéed onions, chopped bottled garlic, potato salad made from baked potatoes, and baked potatoes themselves have also been sources. Also, smoked fish, both hot and cold-smoked, have been implicated.

Additional Information