Local News

Inspectors Race to Pull Recalled Foods From Shelves

Posted August 6, 2007 6:45 p.m. EDT
Updated August 7, 2007 9:51 p.m. EDT

— State agricultural inspectors said they are running a race against time and disease to find canned food products that were recalled more than two weeks ago.

Inspectors are combing store shelves statewide for cans that may be contaminated with the bacteria that causes botulism, a muscle-paralyzing disease.

Castleberry’s Food Co. of Augusta, Ga., recalled more than 25 brands of chili, beef stew, corned beef hash and canned dog food in late July.

Federal authorities connected four cases of botulism in Indiana and Texas to the recalled food products.

The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recently expanded inspections after visits to nearly 1,500 stores found Castleberry's products still on the shelves – more than a week after the recall.

In two days, officials removed 5,500 cans from slightly more than a third of the stores checked.

Since Aug. 2, inspectors visited more than 10,000 grocery and convenience stores across North Carolina and said they've continued to find and remove cans of recalled food.

"There are a lot of places to visit, and we just try to get as many as we can," said Janna Spruill, who has been inspecting stores in Raleigh.

The expanded search effort "gives us a good indication of where products are on the shelf and where we are having an effect," said Joseph Reardon, director of the department's Food and Drug Protection Division.

County health workers are assisting state employees to inspect smaller, local stores, Reardon said.

"We are relying on the counties that know the landscape, that know who the people are," Reardon said.

He's also looking for more help from above, too.

Reardon said he wants the state Legislature to help provide investigators with a list of possible Castleberry's distribution spots.

Without that list, investigators must assume that the tainted food could be anywhere, he said.

"We are going to analyze how we handle that better, what we may need out of the Legislature to put us in a position where we will know where those accounts are," Reardon said.