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California officials warn of botulism risk from herbal teas

Ten days after county officials alerted the public and four days after the FDA posted a recall notice for deer antler tea linked to botulism cases, the California health department issued a warning about herbal tea from U.S. Deer Antlers Exports and Imports Inc.

The two botulism cases in Orange County are not believed to be related to another cluster of botulism cases in Sacramento County that have been linked to gas station food in Walnut Grove, CA.

recalled deer antler tea pouches 1“CDPH (California Department of Public Health) is investigating two possible cases of botulism in Orange County residents, both of whom consumed U.S. Deer Antlers Exports and Imports Inc. herbal tea products in March,” according to Monday’s warning from the state health department about the tea, which is packaged in plastic pouches.

recalled deer antler tea pouches 2A recall notice dated March 4 and posted on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website reported the implicated tea was distributed to individual customers and acupuncturists in California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

Anyone who has consumed any of the recalled tea produces by U.S. Deer Antlers Exports and Imports Inc. and developed symptoms of botulism poisoning should immediately seek medical attention.

“Initial symptoms frequently include double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, and dry or sore throat. Progressive descending paralysis, usually symmetrical, may follow,” according to the California health department warning.

“Additional symptoms may include slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, inability of the neck muscles to support the head and paralysis of the extremities and respiratory muscles.”

Caused by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, botulism toxin is odorless and colorless, making it undetectable in foods and beverages. Simply handling the recalled tea could result in exposure to toxins from the bacterium, according to public health officials.

Consumers who have any of the tea, or any foods made with it, should discard it immediately by double bagging it in tightly closed plastic bags and placing them in non-recyclable trash bins outside of the home. People should wear rubber or latex gloves, if possible, when handling potentially contaminated products or wash their hands with soap and running water for at least two minutes after touching potentially contaminated foods or beverages.

“Consumers who find the product being offered for sale are encouraged to report the activity to the CDPH toll-free complaint line at 800-495-3232,” according to the California state warning.

The recalled herbal tea is packaged in 6-inch by 4-inch plastic pouches that contain labeling in Korean but do not include lot codes or best-by dates. The implicated teas were prepared by U.S. Deer Antlers Exports and Imports Inc. in its Los Angeles facility from March 1 through April 30, according to the recall notice on the FDA website.

“The aforementioned Herbal Teas, especially those with low-acidity held at room temperature, were not produced according to approved guideline, making them susceptible to contamination by Clostridium botulinum,” according to the recall notice.

“In its ongoing cooperation with the California Department of Public Health, U.S. Deer Antler Exports and Imports Inc. has immediately segregated its entire inventory of Herbal Tea varieties, and is notifying consumers and customers not to consume potentially contaminated product.”

The FDA reported the company is voluntarily recalling all varieties of general herbal teas prepared on-site from March 1 through April 30 to ensure consumer safety.

Consumers in possession of these products are to stop consumption and return unconsumed product to their original place of purchase. The company will be sending recall notices to all of its direct customers. Consumers and others can contact Joong W. Park 323-735-9665 with questions.

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