Bolthouse Farms Carrot JuiceOn Friday, September 29, 2006, Acting State Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Backer advised consumers not to drink Bolthouse Farms Carrot Juice in 450 milliliter and one liter plastic bottles with use by dates of Nov. 11, 2006, or earlier in response to four cases of botulism linked to the product.  Three members of one family in Georgia and a Florida resident became ill with botulism after consuming the product.  No recent illnesses associated with this product have been reported in California.

Consistent with a warning issued on Friday, September 29, 2006 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Backer also advised consumers to keep carrot juice, including pasteurized carrot juice, refrigerated.  To date, one link between the illness and the consumers appears to be that the juice they drank was not properly refrigerated once it was in the home.  Other possible links are under investigation.

Foodborne botulism is a rare, but potentially fatal illness characterized by blurred or double vision, droopy eyelids, difficulty with speech or swallowing and progressive paralysis of the body that may cause breathing difficulty.  Persons experiencing such symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

Botulinum spores are commonly found in soil and on various produce, but are usually harmless when there is oxygen in the environment.  However, the botulinum spores can germinate into bacteria and produce botulinum toxin under conditions such as in home-canned products.  Proper heating or cooking destroys botulinum toxin, but not the spores.  Inadequate refrigeration of carrot juice may allow botulinum spores to grow and produce the toxin that causes illness.  According to FDA, refrigerator temperatures should be no higher than 40 degrees.  Consumers and retailers should regularly check their refrigeration temperatures with an appliance thermometer.

The four cases in Georgia and Florida continue to be investigated by FDA, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health authorities, including the California Department of Health Services. Until further information, consumers and retailers should keep all bottled carrot juice refrigerated properly to prevent botulism.