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Green Onions Linked to Taco Bell E. Coli Outbreak

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it is joining the investigation of the E. coli outbreak connected to a number of Taco Bell restaurants in the Northeast. The fast-food chain has decided to pull green onions from all of its outlets after preliminary testing indicated that the outbreak may be linked to that product.

At this point, neither the FDA nor Taco Bell has confirmed that the green onions are responsible for the problem. According to an FDA statement, “FDA is obtaining 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 will be tested at FDA laboratories. The states involved are testing as well. At this time the agency does not have data implicating or ruling out any of these items.”

The number of states affected by the outbreak has reached four–New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania–although investigators believe that there are most likely additional cases to be found in Connecticut as well. The first report of illness dates back to November 20 while the most recent report occurred on December 2.

The green onions under suspicion were packaged and distributed by California-based Ready Pac Produce. The company said that the scallions came from Boskovich Farms of Oxnard, Calif., but added that it is unclear at what point in the process the contamination may have occurred. In September, Ready Pac Produce was one of several brands whose packaged spinach was pulled from the market due to E. coli concerns.

To date, 35 victims have been hospitalized as a result of the latest E. coli outbreak, three of whom are suffering from hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially serious ailment that can lead to permanent kidney damage or even death.

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