updated 10/6/2006 9:44:25 PM ET 2006-10-07T01:44:25

Investigators believe botulism toxin from bottled carrot juice paralyzed a woman, the fourth person thought to be poisoned by bacteria in the drink.

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The unidentified woman is unresponsive and has been hospitalized since mid-September, said Jylmarie Kintz, epidemiologist for the Hillsborough County Health Department.

Three people in Georgia experienced respiratory failure and remain hospitalized on ventilators since drinking the bottled carrot juice a month ago, according to federal officials.

The trio were from Washington County, Ga., and shared a meal Sept. 7 that included carrot juice made by Bolthouse Farms, the Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control said Friday.

The Food and Drug Administration said the victims may have improperly handled the juice after purchase. Fresh carrot juice is low in acid, which means it must be kept refrigerated to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Both bottles were consumed by the victims within their “best used by” date and came from different lots, the CDC said.

Warning issued
The FDA is investigating other possible causes and has issued a warning to consumers not to drink Bolthouse Carrot Juice with a use-by date of Nov. 11 or earlier.

Bolthouse Farms of Bakersfield, Calif., issued a voluntary recall for the juice last week. The juice as distributed in every state and in Mexico, Canada and Hong Kong with the labels “Bolt House Farms 100% Carrot Juice,” “Earthbound Farm Organic Carrot Juice,” and “President’s Choice Organics 100% Pure Carrot Juice.”

Tim Warner, a Washington-based public relations representative for Bolthouse Farms, referred consumers to Bolthouse Farms’ company Web site for additional information about the recall.

Warner said all of the company’s other products remain available to consumers. He encouraged consumers to refrigerate all perishable products.

Botulism poisoning symptoms include double vision, droopy eyelids, trouble speaking or swallowing and paralysis on both sides of the body that progresses from the neck down.

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