Taco Bell E. coli Outbreak Is Over
FDA Is Investigating Lettuce as Possible Source of Outbreak
Dec. 15, 2006 -- The E. coli outbreak linked to Taco Bell
restaurants in four Northeastern states "appears to be over," says the
Health experts haven't yet identified the source of the E. coli
outbreak, but the FDA is focusing its investigation on shredded iceberg
E. coli are bacteria. There are hundreds of strains of E.
coli. The strain linked to the Taco Bell cases is 0157:H7.
E. coli 0157:H7 can cause diarrhea, which is often
bloody. Most healthy adults recover within a week. However, some people can
develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can lead to kidney
E. coli Cases
As of Dec. 14, the CDC had reports of 71 people with illness linked to Taco
Bell restaurants in four states -- Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and
Those patients include 53 who were hospitalized and eight with HUS.
Illness onset dates ranged from Nov. 20 to Dec. 2, peaking in late
The CDC says that though the outbreak seems to be over, "additional
cases from the outbreak period could still be identified."
CDC investigators have interviewed people who ate at Taco Bell and didn't
get sick and those who became infected by E. coli.
The CDC's analysis of those interviews suggests that three items -- shredded
lettuce, cheese, or ground beef -- were eaten more often by people who fell
Taco Bell's cheese is pasteurized and its beef is cooked. Those processes
should kill E. coli bacteria, leaving lettuce as the prime
The FDA is following the lettuce lead, looking for the farm or farms that
grew the iceberg lettuce and any facilities where the lettuce was
If lettuce was the E. coli source, contamination probably happened
before reaching the restaurants, says the CDC.
Green onions had earlier been considered a possible E. coli source.
But onions of any type are not linked to this outbreak, according to the
Taco Bell Plans Improvements
"I want to reassure our customers that it is absolutely safe to eat at
Taco Bell," says Taco Bell President Greg Creed in a Taco Bell news
Creed announced this week that the company plans to lead an industry
coalition of government regulators, competitors, suppliers, and other experts
to develop improved guidelines and procedures to safeguard the produce supply
chain and public health.
"Going forward, we commit to our customers to work with our
internationally recognized experts in food safety as we lead an industry effort
to improve produce safety standards at the farm level to prevent this from
happening again at our restaurant, or wherever customers may buy their
food," Creed says.
When the outbreak began, Taco Bell switched its supplier for all produce,
including lettuce, for its restaurants in Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and
Taco Bell says it also discarded food and resanitized all affected
restaurants in the region.