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Man Dies After Eating Gas Station's Nacho Cheese Sauce

Martin Galindo was one of 10 people who contracted botulism from the cheese.

One of 10 people sickened last month by a tainted batch of nacho cheese from a California gas station has died, health officials said Monday.

Martin Galindo, a 37-year-old father of two, died after contracting the foodborne disease botulism, his family shared on a GoFundMe page.

On Thursday, Galindo was taken off of life support, ending a weeks-long battle, his family said.

Martin Galindo, 37, was taken off of life support after being hospitalized for botulism, his family said.
Martin Galindo, 37, was taken off of life support after being hospitalized for botulism, his family said.

Tests have meanwhile confirmed that a cheese product supplied at the Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station in Walnut Grove, Sacramento County, contained a toxin that causes botulism, which is spread through contaminated food or water, California’s Department of Public Health said on Monday.

Though the CDPH did not identify last week’s fatality by name, the San Francisco Office of the Medical Examiner confirmed Galindo’s death, as well as a related botulism investigation, to the Sacramento Bee.

Botulism is the same foodborne disease that has been linked to the sickening of nine other people who consumed the gas station cheese, including a mother of three who was placed in intensive care.

The CDPH said the gas station stopped selling the cheese sauce on May 5 and they believe there is no continuing risk to the public.

Botulism, whose symptoms including vomiting, blurry vision, slurred speech, dry mouth and gradual paralysis, is a rare illness that results in death just 3 to 5 percent of the time, according to the CDPH. 

A toxin that causes botulism, which is spread through contaminated food or water, was found in the gas station's cheese,
A toxin that causes botulism, which is spread through contaminated food or water, was found in the gas station's cheese, state health officials said.

It’s most often linked to home-canned foods that lack proper hygienic procedures, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“While there are still unanswered questions about this outbreak, these tragic illnesses are important reminders to be vigilant about food safety,” said Dr. Karen Smith, a state public health officer and the director of CDPH. “As we head into the summer barbecue season, both indoor and outdoor chefs need to be on guard against all foodborne illnesses.”

Wisconsin-based food manufacturer Gehl Foods meanwhile has been identified as the supplier of one of the products seized from the gas station.

In a statement, Gehl Foods CEO Eric Beringause said they are working with federal, state and local health authorities and are “praying for the individuals battling the illness and their families.”

“We immediately retested samples from the relevant lot of cheese, and it remains clear of any contamination. To ensure the integrity of those test results, we also sent multiple samples to an independent lab, which confirmed our findings,” Beringause said. “Gehl’s facilities remain safe for food production and all of our food samples continue to test negative for any contaminants. There is no recall of Gehl’s nacho cheese product.”

The CDPH advises that when people cook food they make it’s cooked to the right temperature, wash their hands and surfaces often, and refrigerate foods properly and separate raw meats from other foods.

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