Man’s Death Linked to Walnut Grove Botulism Outbreak

WALNUT GROVE -- A drive from the 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 said.

Ten cases of botulism -- a nerve paralyzing illness caused by toxins -- are now linked to Valley Oak Food and Fuel in Walnut Grove after tainted nacho cheese sickened customers, according to the California Department of Public Health.

"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.

When you walk into Valley Oak Food and Fuel there's no sign of a nacho cheese dispenser, 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.

Now, another blow -- a 37-year-old Antioch man died this week from botulism.

Martin Galindo's brother tells FOX40 he doesn't know for sure if Galindo got the illness from the Walnut Grove gas station but 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.

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 food borne botulism per year," said Dr. Brett Laurence, a Infection Control Specialist at Sutter General.

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. Two of the people sickened were said to be teenagers, according to one of the attorneys.