Thursday, August 09, 2007

Care packages may contain tainted cans of chili

"By Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Wednesday, August 8, 2007

WASHINGTON — A shipment of more than 100 care packages sent to Iraq and Afghanistan contain cans of chili that may be contaminated with botulism, charity officials warned this week.

Members of the Los Angeles Blue Star Mothers Chapter 5 are asking troops who receive the boxes of food and supplies to throw away the chili immediately, to make sure no one gets sick from the treat.

“We are just heartsick that we sent this stuff out to our military, because the last thing we wanted to do was send them food poisoning,” said Gail Chavez, vice president of the group.

The chili, which is Cattle Drive brand, is part of a massive recall of canned food announced last month by Castleberry foods. Company officials said a processing problem at their Georgia plant lead to contamination of several product lines.

So far, no human cases of botulism have been linked to the problematic cans. But the illness can cause double vision, muscle paralysis, respiratory failure and death, according to health officials. The company and Centers for Disease Control are instructing anyone with the cans to dispose to them.

A large portion of the Blue Star Mothers’ care packages were mailed to Camp Rustamiyah and Phoenix Base near Baghdad, but Chavez said other shipments were mailed to various locations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She said the items usually take about two weeks to arrive overseas, meaning troops will probably receive them in the next few days if they haven’t already.

“I am going to mail each soldier we had an address for a letter informing them about this recall, but I don’t know if I can reach them before the boxes get there,” she said.

Despite the problems, Chavez said her group is already planning another care package drive to help resupply the troops who were sent the bad food.

“We are absolutely not going to be discouraged by this minor setback,” she said. “There is so much support for the troops here in California, it is an absolute joy.”
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