Antioch father dies after eating nacho cheese
SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - State health officials have confirmed contaminated nacho cheese from a service station is responsible for an outbreak of botulism poisoning.
One patient has died, and nine others, including two teenagers, have been hospitalized since eating the prepared food one month ago.
"He was a great brother, a great father, always great with the nephews, and his own kids," Mario Galindo told KTVU, describing his older brother Martin, who was taken off life support on May 18.
37-year-old Martin Galindo was married and the father of two young children.
He was a graduate of Sacramento State University, and owned his own construction business.
Last month, he was commuting between his home in Antioch and a job site near Sacramento, which took him past the Valley Oak Food and Fuel in Walnut Grove.
"That gas station was pretty much the mid-point between here and there," explained Mario, "so I kind of figure, he'd stop by get a few snacks on the way back and forth, coffee, something to drink."
Unwittingly, Galindo bought tortilla chips and cheese sauce, nachos that were contaminated.
"That's the scary thing about botulism, it's odorless and tasteless," attorney Bill Marler told KTVU, speaking from Seattle, where he is a partner at Marler Clark, a law firm specializing in food poisoning cases.
Marler says botulism bacteria is everywhere in the environment, but when it's sealed up- like a can or bag- the spores can grow and become a deadly biohazard.
"The most likely thing is that it happened in some error at the assembly line at the cheese manufacturer," said Marler.
He does not represent the Galindo family, but Marler has six clients, including Lavinia Kelly of Sacramento, all of whom the tainted cheese.
Like the others, Kelly depends on a ventilator to breathe.
Botulism brings on full body paralysis.
"They've been taping her eyelids open so she can see her family when they visit," described Marler.
"She know what's going on, and she can't do anything about it. It's the most frightening thing you can imagine.
Kelly has three children.
The lawsuit filed on her behalf against the gas station, describes her prognosis as uncertain.
"I'm missing my best friend, my love," said Kelly's partner Ricardo Torres, outside the hospital.
"I'm trying to hold it together for my kids. My kids need their mother back."
A gofundme account has been established to assist her family.
Kelly and other patients are being treated with anti-toxin from the Centers for Disease Control.
Full recovery is possible, but takes months, even up to a year.
Two weeks after people started becoming ill, state health officials impounded several bags of sauce from the gas station,
The manufacture, Gehl Foods of Wisconsin, insists its facilities are safe and that samples from the same product lot are testing negative.
In a statement provided to KTVU, CEO Eric Beringhause writes in part, "We are praying for the individuals battling the illness",
He also states that the company is "working closely with authorities to determine what caused the outbreak on site."
He concludes there is no ongoing risk to the public and no recall.
While authorities search for answers, the Galindo family struggles with the shock of losing an active, healthy family man who loved camping and the outdoors.
His children are just one and four years old.
"It's tough. As a son, as a brother, especially being the great person that he was, it's hard for everybody."
Botulism is so rare, doctors may not recognize it.
Symptoms may be similar to food poisoning, but with numbness of the fingers and lips.
Martin Gallindo was sent home from the doctor, and told he probably had an infection or allergies.
Hours later, he was in an ambulance, struggling to breathe as paralysis set in.
A gofundme account has been set-up for Martin Galindo's family. Click here to find out how you can help.