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Woman poisoned by gas station nacho cheese



The Sacramento Bee
Thursday, May 18, 2017

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Lavinia Kelly hasn’t been able to speak or breathe on her own since she was hospitalized three weeks ago with botulism, a rare form of food poisoning that she believes she contracted after eating nacho cheese sauce sold at a Sacramento area gas station. Now, the Sacramento woman is suing the gas station due to her ongoing ordeal.

Sacramento County health officials have confirmed five cases of botulism in patients who ate at the Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station, and are investigating three other probable cases and one suspected case, with all nine patients still hospitalized. Officials believe the outbreak is linked to nacho cheese sauce that was served at the station, but the exact cause of the poisoning is still under investigation, officials said.

Kelly, who was turning 33 on May 17, was driving home from work as an inventory manager on April 21 when she pulled over at the gas station’s small market for a snack. She picked up a bag of Doritos chips and drizzled them with nacho-cheese sauce, said her partner, Ricky Torres.

Within hours, the usually upbeat mother of three felt fatigued, he said. The next morning she complained of double vision and went to Sutter Medical Center, but was sent home hours later. By that evening, she was vomiting and having difficulty breathing, Torres said. He drove her back to the emergency room.

The next day, doctors ventilated Kelly and admitted her to the intensive care unit, where she’s been since. The neurotoxins have affected her motor control to the point that she can’t open her eyes, Torres said. When Kelly wants to see who has entered the room, he and other loved ones lift her eyelids open, sometimes using tape to keep them up.

“We’re just trying to figure out what happened,” Torres said. “Now I spend most of time at the hospital, I’m just trying to get answers. ... She’s been doing good, and we just don’t understand why this happened over a bag of chips and nacho cheese. Really? How does that happen?”

“(The gas station) should have been more aware. They’re handling that stuff every day. I know they probably didn’t make the cheese per se, but they handle that stuff in the store.”

Earlier this month, county health officials temporarily revoked the gas station’s permit to sell food and drink. Employees on site declined to comment last week.