Local food pantries are pulling certain types of chili and beef stew out of their storerooms to avoid possibility of botulism contamination.

The products were manufactured by Castleberry Foods, which closed its plant in Augusta, Georgia, after 16 cans of chili sauce tested positive for botulism this weekend. Four cases of botulism have emerged - two in Texas and two in Indiana. All four people consumed Hot Dog Chili Sauce Original.

The company responded by announcing a nationwide recall of all its chili products, plus other foods manufactured on the same production line.

Oregon Food Bank, which distributes three Castleberry products around the state, instructed Oregon food pantries to return the products immediately to the same agency or program from which they received it.

The products include Morton House Chili (15 oz.), Morton House Beef Stew (20 oz.) and Castleberry Beef Stew (24 oz.).

In this area, OFB distributes to CAPECO, which disburses the food to 15 food pantries and other programs in Umatilla, Morrow, Gilliam and Wheeler Counties.

The two biggest programs are Hermiston's Agape House and St. Mary's Outreach in Pendleton.

Agape House Director Dave Hughes said Agape's clients aren't in danger.

"We had four cases of chili that had just gotten delivered last Thursday," Hughes said. "They didn't get into the distribution stream."

St. Mary's Outreach, however, has disbursed some cans to its clients.

"St. Mary's Outreach received its delivery at the beginning of the month," said Rodney Miller, who oversees CAPECO's warehouse operations.

The distributed chili has probably has been consumed by many people, he said, though no problems have been reported so far.

Miller said OFB initially asked the food banks not to distribute the chili, but yesterday added beef stew to the list.

"Food safety is always our top concern, and we work hard to ensure the safety of the food we distribute," said Rachel Bristol, CEO of Oregon Food Bank. "At this time, we have not heard any reports of illness due to these products in the area we serve - Oregon and Southwest Washington. But we take this recall very seriously."

Normally, botulism spores are destroyed when foods cook at high temperatures for certain periods of time. Castleberry's officials confirmed that the botulism occurred after chili sauce was undercooked.

Symptoms of botulism include blurred vision and slurred speech and generally appear within 18 to 36 hours of exposure.

Left untreated, the toxin can cause paralysis of the arms, breathing muscles and legs.

The company recommends that consumers with recalled goods should place the cans in doubled plastic bags and dispose of them. Take product labels to the grocery store where they were purchased for a refund.

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