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Two Salmonella Outbreaks Reportedly Associated with Taco Bell Restaurants

Aug 6, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

Two Salmonella outbreaks involving rare strains of the pathogen have apparently been linked to Taco Bell restaurants. At least 150 people across the country have been sickened in the outbreaks over the past few months.

According to a report on, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has not officially named Taco Bell as the culprit, instead referring to a unnamed Mexican-style fast food chain it calls “Restaurant A.” However, an official with Oregon Public Health told the site that: “It’s been clear for weeks that Taco Bell was the source for many of the illnesses.”

The same official did add, however, that its not clear that all of the illnesses are linked to Taco Bell, and that the outbreaks can’t be attributed to just a single Taco Bell restaurant.

A CDC spokesperson told OregonLive that “naming a restaurant could have an economic impact on the company’s bottom line.”

According to the CDC, the two outbreaks involve Salmonella Hartford and Baildon strains. reported that the two strains rarely cause food-borne illnesses in the US. In fact, the last Baildon outbreak was in the winter of 1998-99 and also involved tomatoes, according to the site.

As of August 1, the CDC said a total of 75 individuals infected with Salmonella Hartford have been reported from 15 states since April 1. The number of ill people identified in each state with this strain is as follows: Colorado (1), Georgia (1), Illinois (5), Indiana (11), Kentucky (23), Massachusetts (2), Michigan (3), Montana (1), North Carolina (1), New Hampshire (1), New York (1), Ohio (19), PA (1), South Carolina (1) and Wisconsin (4).

Since August 1, a total of 80 individuals infected with a matching strain of Salmonella Baildon have been reported from 15 states since May 1, the CDC said. The number of ill people identified in each state with this strain is as follows: Connecticut (1), Georgia (1), Iowa (1), Illinois (20), Indiana (4), Kentucky (5), Masscahusetts (1), Michigan (4), Minnesota (5), New Jersey (6), New York (2), Ohio (6), Oregon (1), Washington (1) and Wisconsin (22).

Accord to the CDC, epidemiologic studies comparing foods eaten by ill and well persons were conducted for both outbreaks. In each study, analysis indicates that eating at a “Mexican-style fast food restaurant chain, Restaurant Chain A” is associated with some illnesses. Among persons eating at “Restaurant Chain A”, no specific food item or ingredient was found to be associated with illness for either outbreak, the agency said.

According to the CDC, most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12–72 hours after infection. Infection is usually diagnosed by culture of a stool sample. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Although most people recover without treatment, severe infections can occur. Infants, elderly people, and those with weakened immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness. When severe infection occurs, Salmonella may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

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