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UPDATE: FDA Investigates E. Coli O157 Cases Associated with Taco Bell Restaurants
The Food and Drug Administration continues to investigate an ongoing outbreak of E. coli O157 infection in consumers, associated with eating food from Taco Bell restaurants in six states. FDA is collaborating with state and local health officials, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the firm, suppliers and distributors to determine the cause of the sicknesses and prevent additional infections.
CDC today reports 62 probable or confirmed cases of illness in six states associated with the outbreak. In the vast majority of the cases, individuals reported having eaten at a Taco Bell restaurant within seven days before onset of illness. A significant percentage of cases resulted in hospitalization. For specific information on these cases, see http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2006/december/120806.htm. As noted by CDC, FDA expects additional cases to be identified in the coming days.
To date, no data implicates or rules out any specific food item served at the Taco Bell restaurants. FDA has obtained samples of all non-meat items served in the restaurants that could carry the pathogen. These include cilantro, cheddar cheese, blended cheese, green onions, yellow onions, tomatoes and lettuce. The samples are being tested at FDA and at state laboratories.
Infection with E. coli O157 causes diarrhea, often bloody. Although most healthy adults can recover completely within a week, some people can develop hemolytic uremic syndrome, a form of kidney failure. HUS is most likely to occur in young children and the elderly. The condition can lead to serious kidney damage and even death.
Consumers who are concerned that they may have contracted E. coli O157 infection should notify their local health department and contact their physician or health care provider to seek medical attention as needed.
On December 6, Taco Bell Corp. announced it was voluntarily removing green onions from its restaurants nationwide after preliminary testing by the firm indicated the possible presence of E. coli O157:H7 in samples of the product. Tests to confirm that preliminary finding continue but have not yet been completed. In the interim, FDA continues to investigate the possibility that other food items served at the restaurants are the source of the pathogen.
FDA also is working with Taco Bell Corp. and its suppliers and distributors to obtain information on sources and distribution of products, to aid in tracing back any products identified as contaminated with the pathogen.
FDA will provide updates on this investigation as more information becomes available.