GARY T. KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jonathan Stockton, 33, of Hana, Maui, remained at Maui Memorial Medical Center yesterday.
Botulism suspected in ailing Maui man
STORY SUMMARY »
Hawaii health officials are investigating the case of a Maui man who might have contracted botulism from a recalled canned food product.
On Tuesday, Jonathan Stockton of Maui ate a can of Cattle Drive brand chili, one of the recalled products. Two days later he checked into Maui Memorial Medical Hospital with muscle weakness and paralysis in his face.
State Department of Health officials said yesterday that Stockton's case meets some clinical criteria for botulism. Officials are trying to confirm the botulism poisoning by sending Stockton's blood samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. If recovered, a sample of the chili will also be sent in for testing, officials said.
A week ago, Castleberry's Food Co. in Augusta, Ga., recalled more than 90 brands of canned food, shutting down its plant. Two people in Texas and two in Indiana were confirmed to be sick and hospitalized from the contaminated food, according to the CDC. Castleberry's makes Cattle Drive chili.
In California, officials are trying to confirm a link between a case of confirmed botulism in a San Diego woman and the recalled food.
Hawaii health officials are conducting spot checks to remove any of the recalled products that could still be on store shelves.
The last confirmed Hawaii botulism case was in 1990, according to Janice Okubo, state Health Department spokeswoman.
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A Maui man might have contracted botulism after eating a canned food product that is part of a nationwide recall, the state Department of Health said yesterday.
Three weeks ago, Jonathan Stockton, 33, bought a multipack of Cattle Drive brand chili from the Kahului Costco. The brand has been since taken off the shelves as part of a nationwide recall.
Stockton said he and his 28-year-old cousin ate the last can of the pack Tuesday and soon grew sick. The chili, Stockton said, "tore us both up."
"We were both violently ill," with diarrhea, said Stockton, of Hana, Maui, who is also a pastor there.
His cousin has since recovered and did not check into the hospital.
Thousands of cans of the Castleberry's Food Co. product have been removed from shelves after the company recalled more than 90 canned products out of fear of botulism poisoning.
Stockton learned about the recall when he went back to Costco and saw signs the warning signs notifying customers.
"It just kind of hit me -- oh, you got to be kidding me," he said.
From his hospital bed, Stockton said a numbness has descended down his face to his chin, his eye was closing and he had a twitching sensation after he stopped talking. "Feels like I have Novocain inside my head," he said.
The effects from botulism could be long term, lasting weeks, months or years. After several weeks, paralysis from botulism slowly improves.
Stockton's doctors have told him the leading diagnosis is that he has botulism.
However, Chiyome Fukino, director of the state Department of Health, said, "It is not confirmed yet."
Because other diseases or conditions, such as a stroke, have symptoms that mimic botulism, Stockton's samples will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be tested. The test results could come in this weekend or early next week, Fukino said.
What is botulism?
Caused by a nerve toxin, botulism is a rare illness that can lead to paralysis, respiratory failure and death. The toxin enters the body through wounds or in food but cannot pass person to person, as with the flu.
Symptoms of botulism include double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing and muscle paralysis that moves down the body.
Symptoms can occur within six hours to 10 days of eating food tainted with botulism.
Anyone who has recently eaten a Castleberry's product and has these symptoms should seek medical attention.
Source: State Department of Heath
Canned food recall
On July 21, Castleberry's Food Co. recalled more than 90 brands of canned chili, stew, hash and other food products.
According to the state Department of Health, anyone with these products should double-bag them and discard them outside the home. Anyone seeing the recalled products for sale in Hawaii is asked to call the state's Food and Drug branch at 586-4725 or the district health office on the neighbor islands.
For more information and a list of recalled products, visit www.castleberrys.com.
If samples of Stockton's chili have been recovered, they will also be sent to the CDC, she said.
For now, health officials are treating Stockton as a case of botulism since he has some of the illness' symptoms.
One treatment for botulism is an antitoxin, which blocks the action of the botulism toxin that is circulating in the blood.
Stockton said he is not taking the antitoxin because his symptoms have stopped growing worse. To stay relaxed, he is taking Valium and medicine for headaches.
Earlier this week, state health officials notified all the major retailers of the recall and have been doing spot checks for stores around the state that could still be carrying the recalled products.
Fukino said no recalled products were found on shelves of stores the department checked. She did not disclose how many stores had been checked.
Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said the department is more concerned about Hawaii's smaller stores. The department is also asking individuals to tell others who might not have heard about the recall.
"Our main message is people should be sure not to have those recalled products in their home and that stores need to be checking their inventory to make sure it's not on their shelves," she said.
In Congress, two committees will investigate the owner of Castleberry's, Bumble Bee Foods LLC, after four people contracted botulism from the recalled food.
While health officials are closely monitoring Stockton's condition, Stockton said he might be able to leave the hospital as early as today.
"I feel better today. I'm feeling more positive about it," he said. "You just have got to be careful."
This is Stockton's second brush with danger in Hawaii. In July 2002 he was kayaking off the Big Island when he was lost at sea. He was found more than two days later in good condition about 80 miles west of the Big Island.