Experts believe that Taco Bell is likely behind a Salmonella outbreak last year that caused 68 people to fall ill in 10 states. Yum Brand Inc. runs Taco Bell.
In a statement yesterday, Taco Bell said that investigators found that while some who fell ill had eaten at Taco Bell, others had not, wrote The Chicago Tribune. “They believe that the problem likely occurred at the supplier level before it was delivered to any restaurant or food outlet. We take food quality and safety very seriously,” Taco Bell said, mirroring information released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) January 19 final report on the multi-state outbreak.
The Salmonella enteritidis illness cluster, said The Tribune, is believed to have started in the middle of October and ended with the CDC’s final report in January. Sicknesses were reported in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, and Tennessee. Of those who fell ill, said the CDC, 31 percent required hospitalization and no one died.
In its final report, the CDC said the outbreak was linked to “Restaurant A,” a Mexican-style fast-food chain, noted The Tribune. Food Safety News first identified Taco Bell as Restaurant A, citing a document from Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Acute Disease Service.
We previously wrote that Taco Bell restaurants were implicated in other outbreaks of food borne illness. In 2000, tainted green onions served by the chain were tied to an outbreak of hepatitis. Then, in 2006, an E. coli outbreak linked to tainted lettuce served at the restaurants sickened at least 71 patrons in five states.
In 2010, said The Tribune, the CDC confirmed that Taco Bell was tied to two rare Salmonella outbreaks that sickened about 155 people in 21 states. In that case, noted The Tribune, the CDC’s original statement was that the outbreak was linked to an unnamed Mexican-style fast food restaurant chain.
Last year, we wrote that a lawsuit was filed in this outbreak and was filed by a resident of Kentucky who purportedly ate at a Taco Bell and was later hospitalized due to Salmonella poisoning. In that 21-state outbreak, the rare Hartford and Baildon strains were involved. About 30 percent of the Hartford and 40 percent of the Baildon cases required hospitalization. The two strains rarely cause food-borne illnesses in the US.
According to the CDC, most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 72 hours after infection. Infection is usually diagnosed by culture of a stool sample.
Salmonellosis typically lasts 4 to 7 days and, 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.