Nacho Cheese From Gas Station Causes Botulism Outbreak


It all started with a simple snack. Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station in Sacramento, California serves a variety of foods, including nacho cheese.

This particular nacho cheese may quite literally be a deadly addition to one’s diet, as it has now hospitalized ten people with a rare form of food poisoning.

Credit: Sammy Caiola/Sacramento Bee

Lavinia Kelly is one of these confirmed cases, and after spending three weeks in the hospital, she is suing the Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station for negligence, product liability and breach of implied warranty. One thing the patients all share in common is that they ate the nacho cheese at the same gas station.

This form of food poisoning, known as botulism, is more serious than most and can render the victim unable to breathe or speak on their own, as is the case with Lavinia Kelly. Botulism can lead to paralysis or even death in rare cases. The bacteria multiplies and releases a toxin to the nerves, causing blurred vision, vomiting and fatigue.

Related: Salmonella Is No Longer King of Food Poisoning

“(The gas station) should have been more aware. They’re handling that stuff every day. I know they probably didn’t make the cheese per se, but they handle that stuff in the store,” said Kelly’s partner, Ron Torres.

Courtesy: Flickr, CC BY 2.0

The gas station is currently under investigation, and their license to serve food was revoked in early May as the investigation into these cases began. In the United States, there were 161 cases of botulism recorded, and only 15 of these cases were from consuming spoiled foods. With the majority of these cases coming from home canning situations, it is very rare that they occur at stores or restaurants. Now, the Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station is linked to ten cases of botulism.

“Only human mistakes create the environment for botulinum toxin to form,” said Bruce Clark, the attorney handling the suit. “We will use the lawsuit to learn more about the source of the food product that was contaminated. The source of the food product may be unrelated to the gas station; it could be a commercially made, pre-packaged item. That’s an essential question.”

For anyone who has that potentially visited this gas station during the months of April and May, 2017, it is recommended that they visit a doctor, especially if they are experiencing unusual symptoms. For example, Kelly’s symptoms began with fatigue, progressing violently as the day went on until she had to be admitted to the intensive care unit.

In all cases, take care when consuming foods from sources that are unfamiliar.

Related: Bagged Salads Could Be Breeding Ground for Salmonella