If you’ve had big plans for a plate of nachos somewhere in the near future, you might want to rethink your menu: 7,000 cases of Taco Bell cheese dip have been recalled due to concerns of botulism. The dip in question is the jarred Taco Bell-branded Salsa Con Queso Mild Cheese Dip that’s available from Kraft Heinz at many grocery stores and retailers; you can see the full list of affected products here, including individual package UPCs and the UPCs for the cases, but generally speaking, the affected products are packaged in 15-ounce glass jars and have “best when used by” dates between Dec. 27, 2018 and Jan. 23, 2019. A press release notes that no illnesses have been reported, but consumers are still urged to refrain from using the affected product. Stated Kraft Heinz, “We deeply regret this situation and apologize to any consumers we have disappointed.”
Kraft Heinz, which produces and distributes Taco Bell-branded grocery store offerings (Yum! Brands owns Taco Bell itself), announced the voluntary recall on Tuesday, according to a press release. The issue appears to be product separation observed in the affected jars of dip which could potentially lead to a health hazard. Although there haven’t been any reports of illness connected to this issue — the recall was initiated as a precaution — the press release notes that the product separation “could create conditions that could allow for the growth” of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum); as such, it’s not recommended that you consume the product, even if it doesn’t look or smell like it’s gone off.
Unlike salmonella — another foodborne illness that’s been in the news a lot lately — foodborne botulism is actually quite rare; when it does occur, though, it’s serious, causing difficulty breathing, paralysis, and even death. While it’s often associated with foods that have been home-canned, home-preserved, or home-fermented, botulism can become a risk when foods aren’t canned properly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — which can happen in a wide variety of situations and circumstances, not just in home-canning operations.
The symptoms of foodborne botulism, which usually emerge 18 to 36 hours after eating something that’s been contaminated by the bacterium, are a result of the muscle paralysis triggered by the toxin that causes the illness; these include double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, the sensation that your tongue is unusually thick, dry mouth, and general muscle weakness, according to the CDC. You might also experience diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting. If it’s left untreated, botulism may begin to cause difficulty breathing and paralysis in the legs, arms, or torso. The respiratory issues are one of the biggest concerns with botulism; the illness can very easily become fatal. It’s absolutely essential that anyone experiencing these symptoms seek emergency treatment as soon as possible.
The Taco Bell-branded cheese dip is far from the only recall to have been initiated either as a precaution or as a result of botulism. In September of 2017, for example, 11-ounce cans of Death Wish Coffee’s Nitro Cold Brew were recalled as a precautionary measure in light of botulism risk; in February of 2018, a recall for potential botulism affected 4,202 pounds of pork soup by Guymon Extracts; and in 2013, a massive recall of Fonterra products was initiated as a result of botulism concerns, although the products were later found not to contain the bacterium that causes the illness. Still, though — when it comes to foodborne illnesses, especially when they’re as serious as botulism is, better safe than sorry.
The affected Taco Bell Salsa Con Queso Cheese Dip was distributed in the United States only. If you have an affected jar, you can either throw it out or return it to the store where you purchased it for either an exchange or a refund. Additionally, you can reach out to Kraft Heinz for a refund by calling 1-800-310-3704 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.