What Is Botulism? Kraft Heinz Recalls Taco Bell Queso Dip

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A jar of Taco Bell's Salsa Con Queso dip. Kraft Heinz issued a voluntary recall of the dip on Wednesday amid fears of a botulism risk in certain batches. Kraft Heinz

Kraft Heinz issued a voluntary recall of about 7,000 cases of Taco Bell Salsa Con Queso Mild Cheese Dip on Wednesday because the product may pose a botulism risk.

Kraft Heinz announced in a press release that the queso dip showed signs of product separation that could allow for the growth of the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism. Although there have been no complaints or reports of illness, Kraft Heinz issued the recall on all 15-ounce glass jars of Salsa Con Queso Mild Cheese Dip with best-when-used-by dates of October 31; November 1; December 26; December 27; and January 23, 2019.

"We deeply regret this situation and apologize to any consumers we have disappointed," the company said in its release. "Consumers who purchased this product should not eat it and return it to the store where purchased for an exchange or full refund."

Botulism is caused by a toxin that attacks the body's nerves, causing difficulty breathing and muscle paralysis, and it can be fatal, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria that causes the potentially fatal disease is actually quite common and found in many places naturally, but it rarely makes people sick.

But when the bacteria's spores are exposed to certain conditions, including a low-oxygen or no oxygen environment, a certain temperature range and a certain amount of water, it can create "one of the most lethal toxins known," according to the CDC. Improperly home-canned, preserved, or fermented foods are one example of when the spores can become a toxin. There are five kinds of botulism, and foodborne botulism is contracted by eating contaminated foods.

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This illustration depicts a three-dimensional (3D) computer-generated image of a group of anaerobic, spore-forming, Clostridium organisms. Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Symptoms of the disease include double and blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth and muscle weakness, and they usually begin 18 to 36 hours after consuming the contaminated food. Some people, however, experience symptoms within six hours or even 10 days later.

The symptoms stem from muscle paralysis that is caused by the toxin, and if untreated it can result in paralysis of certain muscles, including arms, legs, and those used for breathing, according to the CDC.

There are multiple ways a doctor can test for botulism, in addition to a physical examination to discover the cause of a patient's symptoms. Brain scans, a spinal fluid examination, and nerve and muscle function tests might be administrated if botulism is suspected.

Early diagnosis of botulism increases a person's chances of survival, according to the Mayo Clinic, and treatments include clearing out the digestive system through induced vomiting and injecting an antitoxin. Although the antitoxin can't reverse the damage that has already been done, the Mayo Clinic explained that nerves regenerate, and so many people recover fully, even if it takes months and extended rehabilitation therapy.

Because of the development of the antitoxin and modern medical care, the CDC explained that less than five of every 100 people who contract botulism die of the disease. In 2016, there were 205 cases of botulism in the United States, with only 29 of those cases being foodborne botulism, according to a report by the CDC.