Woman Fights For Her Life, Others Hospitalized For Botulism After Consuming Gas Station Cheese Sauce


A woman is fighting for her life in the ICU while others are also hospitalized after consuming nacho cheese from a gas station in California. What is botulism, and how severe can a botulism contamination case be?

Botulism From Gas Station Cheese

It was last April 21 when Lavinia Kelly stopped over at the Valley Oak Food and Fuel Gas Station in Walnut Grove for a snack and bought a bag of Doritos that she then drizzled with nacho cheese sauce. A local report states that Kelly felt fatigued within hours of consuming the nacho cheese, but it was only the day after that she went to Sutter Medical Center, complaining of double vision and was sent home just a few hours after.

The report continues that Kelly's partner rushed her back to the emergency room when she began vomiting and having difficulty breathing that same evening. The next day, Kelly was placed on ventilators and admitted to the ICU where she has spent the last three weeks, even missing her birthday last May 17.

According to a news release by Sacramento County Health and Human Services, an investigation is currently underway as several other people have been admitted to hospitals with food-borne botulism. So far, preliminary data seems to be pointing to the nacho cheese sold at the gas station in Walnut Grove that is the likely source of the botulism.

The gas station's permit to sell food and drinks has already been revoked earlier this month, and Kelly's family has already filed a lawsuit against the gas station.

The Sacramento County Health and Human Services is calling out to anyone who consumed nacho cheese from the gas station between the dates of April 23 and May 5 experiencing symptoms of botulism to contact their health care provider immediately.

Food-Borne Botulism

Cases of botulism are rare, but they are often serious cases, as botulism is caused by a nerve toxin produced by clostridium botulinum, and a single contamination can cause an outbreak. The most common symptoms of botulism include double or blurred vision, slurred speech, drooping eyelids, dry mouth, and muscle weakness. At the worst, botulism can be fatal.

Rare cases of botulism occur when too much botulinum toxin is injected into the body for cosmetic reasons, while the most common source of botulism cases come from improper preparation of homemade food such as home-canned food products.

In the United States, the largest botulism outbreak was recorded on 2015, when 77 guests at a potluck consumed a meal that was made with contaminated home-canned potatoes. Among them, 29 guests were confirmed to have botulism, one of whom died from respiratory failure shortly after arriving at the hospital.

In the case of the gas station nacho cheese, the main source of the contamination is still unclear.

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