Costco Pulls Black Beans from Stores Over Toxin Fears

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Costco has issued a recall for their black beans nationwide. The report says issues about cans occasioned the recall may have a compromised hermetic seal.

According to a post by Reddit user Wisteria98122 last Saturday, there was fear the beans could have been infected by toxin C. botulinum. The report by the consumer included a screenshot of an apparent email notification they received from Costco dated Friday, April 23. Costco’s recall email notification read:

“Costco records indicate that you, or one of your add-on members, have purchased item #664511 S&W Organic Black Beans between February 19, 2021 and April 20, 2021[…] Faribault Foods, Inc., in conjunction with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is voluntarily recalling these 15-ounce cans of S&W Organic Black Beans because the cans may have a compromised hermetic seal. The compromised hermetic seal can affect can integrity and may cause the cans to leak, bloat or allow bacteria (such as Clostridium botulinum) to grow inside the product…”

Paralysis of the Breathing Muscles

The same recall advisory can be found on Faribault Foods, Inc.’s website, where they go on to explain that Clostridium botulinum “could lead to serious illness.” The advisory continues:

“Clostridium botulinum poisoning in humans can begin from six hours to two weeks after eating food that contains the toxin. Symptoms may include double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, and muscle weakness. Botulism poisoning can cause paralysis of the breathing muscles, which can result in death unless assistance with breathing (mechanical ventilation) is provided.”

  1. botulinum is an anaerobic bacterium, meaning it can only grow in the absence of oxygen. Foodborne botulism occurs when C. botulinum grows and produces toxins in food before consumption. C. botulinum produces spores, and they exist widely in the environment, including soil, river, and seawater.

Commercially Prepared Foods

The growth of the bacteria and toxin formation occur in products with low oxygen content and certain combinations of storage temperature and preservative parameters. This happens most often in lightly preserved foods and inadequately processed, home-canned, or home-bottled foods.

  1. botulinum will not grow in acidic conditions (pH less than 4.6). Therefore, the toxin will not be formed in acidic foods (however, a low pH will not degrade any pre-formed toxin). Combinations of low storage temperature and salt contents and/or pH are also used to prevent the growth of the bacteria or the formation of the toxin.

The botulinum toxin has been found in a variety of foods, including low-acid preserved vegetables, such as green beans, spinach, mushrooms, and beets; fish, including canned tuna, fermented, salted, and smoked fish; and meat products, such as ham and sausage. The food implicated differs between countries and reflects local eating habits and food preservation procedures. Occasionally, commercially prepared foods are involved.

Though spores of C. botulinum are heat-resistant, the toxin produced by bacteria growing out of the spores under anaerobic conditions is destroyed by boiling (for example, at an internal temperature greater than 85 °C for 5 minutes or longer). Therefore, ready-to-eat foods in low oxygen packaging are more frequently involved in cases of foodborne botulism.

Colonize In the Gut and Release Toxins

Botulism is a rare but potentially deadly illness caused by a poison most commonly produced by a germ called Clostridium botulinum. The germ is found in soil and can survive, grow, and produce toxins in certain conditions, such as when food is improperly canned. The toxin can affect your nerves, paralyze you, and even kill you. You cannot see, smell, or taste botulinum toxin, but taking even a small taste of food containing this toxin can be deadly.

Infant botulism occurs mainly in infants under six months of age. Unlike foodborne botulism caused by ingestion of preformed toxins in food, it occurs when infants ingest C. botulinum spores, which germinate into bacteria that colonize in the gut and release toxins. In most adults and children older than about six months, this would not happen because natural defenses in intestines that develop over time prevent germination and growth of the bacterium.

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