Mexican-Style Restaurant Chain Implicated in 2011 Outbreak was Taco Bell

In October and November 2011, a foodborne illness outbreak associated with Salmonella enteriditis sickened at least 68 persons in 10 states.  In outbreak reports by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the restaurant chain implicated in the outbreak was only identified as “Restaurant Chain A.”

In its outbreak report, CDC investigators indicated that they believed the illnesses resulted from an ingredient distributed by “Restaurant Chain A” that was contaminated before reaching restaurants, although the investigation could not pinpoint a single suspect ingredient. Of the victims who ate at “Restaurant Chain A,” 94 percent reported eating ground beef, while 90 percent ate lettuce and 77 percent ate cheese.

In response to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by Food Safety News, state health departments in two states have now confirmed that “Restaurant Chain A” was, in fact, Taco Bell.  On February 1, documents from the Oklahoma State Department of Health confirmed that Taco Bell was implicated in outbreak cases in their state.  This was confirmed on February 6 by documents released by the Michigan Department of Community Health.  Additional details are in an article published by Food Safety News.

It has been reported elsewhere that CDC’s rationale for not naming the restaurant chain in the outbreak was due to the fact that the outbreak was considered to be over when the determination was made and no additional protection to public health would be achieved by naming the implicated chain.  This aspect of the story also was covered in a recent Food Safety News article.

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About Les Bourquin

Professor and Food Safety Specialist Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition Michigan State University
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