Food Bank Safety

By: Jessica Aspiras Email
By: Jessica Aspiras Email

Monday morning the American Red Cross Regional Distribution Center received an email warning of the possibility of botulism in cans of green beans.

"I printed it right out, and within fifteen minutes I was already here with it," says Operations Supervisor Kathe DeMara Smith. "I was already putting it on the board, circulating it to volunteers that we have."

Every year 7.5 million pounds of food comes through the distribution center, including cans that will be sorted. Any that have dents, bulges, or leaks are thrown away.

Explains Ingham Regional Medical Center's Dr. Max Baumgardner, "Anytime a can's been dented, there's a possibility of introducing bacteria in the can."

Bacteria like botulism. The Food and Drug Administration recalled cans of Castleberry Chili more than two weeks ago. More recently it's issued a warning about tainted green beans manufactured by Lakeside Foods Incorporated.

"The signs and symptoms we're worried about in adults are paralysis of the face [the inability] to move eyes, legs," says Dr. Baumgardner. "Because of paralysis of the body, it can cause respiratory paralysis and death."

DeMara Smith says besides discarding damaged cans, the American Red Cross takes extra steps to ensure the safety of the food it distributes.

"We also wash everything down, even boxed donations. We wash everything down with a bleach solution, so every can is washed down with bleach before it goes out to the public."


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