Mother of three Lavinia Kelly spent her 33rd birthday in the hospital, where she’s been for three weeks after eating nacho cheese sauce sold at Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station in Sacramento, California, according to The Sacramento Bee. The publication reports she’s one of five people with confirmed cases of botulism, a rare form of food poisoning that can lead to paralysis, breathing difficulty, and sometimes death. Lavinia remains partially paralyzed and on a ventilator, according to Food Safety News.
Sacramento County health officials are investigating three additional probable cases and one suspect case linked to this particular nacho cheese, with all nine patients still hospitalized. Officials have since taken the business’ permit to sell food and drinks. Employees have not responded to requests for comment.
Botulism occurs when botulinum bacteria multiply, usually in moist, low-oxygen environments. The bacteria releases a nerve toxin, which causes gradual paralysis and sometimes death. Common symptoms include vomiting, blurred vision, difficulty breathing and muscle weakness. Botulism tends to stem from improper food handling, and is often associated with home canning.
Lavinia’s family has filed a lawsuit against the gas station for negligence, product liability, and breach of implied warranty, since “only human mistakes create the environment for botulinum toxin to form,” according to Bruce Clark, an attorney at Seattle-based food safety law firm Marler Clark who, The Sacramento Bee reports, is working on Kelly’s case.