WALNUT GROVE, Calif. – A California father has died and at least nine others were sickened as health officials continue to investigate a botulism outbreak tied to tainted nacho cheese.
Antioch man Martin Galindo, 37, died this week after contracting botulism, which left him in a coma, according to KTXL.
Galindo's brother said he doesn't know for sure if Galindo got the illness from the Valley Oak Food and Fuel in the small area of Walnut Grove, but he says the timelines do match up. Galindo's illness was confirmed by the California Department of Public Health as having ties to the botulism outbreak.
Ten cases of botulism -- a nerve-paralyzing illness caused by toxins -- are now linked to Valley Oak Food and Fuel after tainted nacho cheese sickened customers, according to the California Department of Public Health. An attorney suing the manufacturer of the cheese told KTXL that two of the people who contracted botulism are teenagers.
"It's not a good thing, little town like this, you'd think they'd be more on top of it," Walnut Grove resident Johnny Sticks said.
Inside Valley Oak Food and Fuel there's no sign of a nacho cheese dispenser now, but there is an empty counter that's roped off – prepared food hasn't been sold at the store since May 5, according to Sacramento County Public Health.
A drive from California's Bay Area to Sacramento takes many through Walnut Grove, but some like Maria Garcia are rethinking where they stop for a break.
"I'm scared to come here now, I'm just afraid," Garcia told KTXL.
Doctors say any case of botulism in adults is very rare.
"Across the U.S. in adults there's probably less than 100 cases of foodborne botulism per year," said Dr. Brett Laurence, an infection control specialist at Sutter General Hospital.
While patients can recover from botulism, doctors say it takes weeks or even months.
Galindo, a dad of two, sadly didn't beat the illness. His brother says the death affects the entire family.
The CEO of Gehl Foods, the company that produced the cheese, issued a statement Monday:
We are aware of the isolated botulism outbreak connected to a gas station in Walnut Grove, California, and are praying for the individuals battling the illness and their families.
We were notified by the FDA that Gehl Foods' nacho cheese was among the products seized at the Walnut Grove gas station during inspection. 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.
We are working closely with federal, state and local health authorities to determine what caused the specific outbreak on site. According to the California Department of Public Health, there is no ongoing risk to the public.
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.
Two attorneys say they've filed lawsuits against Gehl Foods on behalf of the patients sickened by botulism.
Meanwhile, a Sacramento woman is fighting for her life after her family says she contracted botulism from eating the tainted nachos: