Washington Stores nationwide are continuing to sell recalled canned chili, stew, hash and other foods potentially contaminated with poisonous bacteria even after repeated warnings the products could kill.
Thousands of cans are being removed from store shelves as quickly as investigators find them, more than a week after Castleberry's Food Co. began recalling more than 90 potentially contaminated products over fears of botulism contamination.
The recall now covers two years' production at the company's Augusta, Ga., plant - a tally that spirals into the tens of millions of cans.
Spot checks by the Food and Drug Administration and state officials continue to turn up recalled products for sale. The FDA alone has found them in roughly 250 of the more than 3,700 stores visited in checks, according to figures provided to The Associated Press.
In states like North Carolina, more than one in three stores checked by state officials in recent days were still offering recalled products for sale. Officials there pulled 5,500 cans and pledged to keep searching.
"We're not going to quit. These numbers are too high," said Joe Reardon, who oversees food protection for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Four people have been sickened and hospitalized because of the contaminated food, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
FDA investigators believe Castleberry's failed to properly cook some or all the products, allowing the Clostridium botulinum bacteria to survive the canning process. In the oxygen-free and moist environment of the sealed cans, the bacteria thrive and produce a toxin that causes botulism, a muscle-paralyzing disease.