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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
December 06, 2006

Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Gretchen Michael
609-984-7160


 
NJ Health Department Recommends Taco Bell Restaurants Sanitize, Discard all Food and Restock


 

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services is recommending that all Taco Bells in New Jersey receiving food from the McLane Foodservice, Inc. of Burlington discard all current food supplies and clean and sanitize their facilities.  

 

NJDHSS has been working closely with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), neighboring state and local health departments, New Jersey’s local health departments, and Taco Bell Corp. regarding the ongoing investigation of statewide cases of E. coli associated with Taco Bell.

 

Earlier today, Taco Bell Corp. issued a nationwide press release, available at www.tacobell.com.  According to the press release, Taco Bell Corp. has announced that three samples of green onions were found to be presumptive positive for E. coli O157:H7 by an independent testing laboratory.  As a strictly precautionary effort, Taco Bell Corp. has removed green onions at all of its approximately 5,800 restaurants nationwide. 

 

In light of the epidemiological investigation and Taco Bell’s announcement, as a precautionary step, Department of Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D. requests that Taco Bell restaurants take the following actions:

 

Jurisdictions with Taco Bell restaurants WITH associated, culture-confirmed E. coli O157 cases should implement the following interventions at a minimum:

 

  1. The restaurants will need to be cleaned and sanitized.
  2. Current foods in restaurants will need to be discarded and resupplied.
  3. All food workers must have stool samples cultured for E. coli O157 and any symptomatic workers or culture-positive workers must not work until documented culture-negative.
  4. Food workers will need to have enhanced training in proper food handling and hygiene.

Since all New Jersey Taco Bell restaurants receive food from the same distributors, jurisdictions with Taco Bell restaurants WITHOUT associated cases should implement the following interventions at a minimum:

 

  1. The restaurant will need to be cleaned and sanitized.
  2. Current foods in restaurants will need to be discarded and resupplied.

Additionally, the DHSS Food and Drug Safety Program in cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating McLane Foodservice, Inc of Burlington, NJ and Ready Pac Produce in Florence, NJ.   McLane Foodservice is the sole distributor of all ingredients including cheese, meat items, and produce for Taco Bell restaurants in New Jersey, Long Island, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.  Ready-Pac Produce processes produce items such as lettuce, tomatoes, and onions used by the Taco Bell restaurants. 

 

The Department today will be testing samples of green onions from McLane Foodservice.

 

“Now that a food item has tested preliminarily positive, it is prudent that these interventions be taken as soon as possible to protect the public health and safety,’’ Dr. Jacobs said. “In light of the test results on green onions, the risk to the public may be ongoing although we are continuing our investigation into what food source may be the cause of this outbreak.

 

Deputy Commissioner and State Epidemiologist Dr. Eddy Bresnitz has notified all health departments in the state to recommend that the Taco Bells in their jurisdictions take the interventions outlined above to protect the health and safety of the public.

 

“The cooperation of local health departments is essential to ensuring that the appropriate steps are taken to ensure that these recommendations are implemented,’’ said Dr. Bresnitz. “The state and locals are true partners in this investigation.’’

 

As of this time, 40 culture confirmed or possible cases are being investigated in Middlesex, Somerset, Union and Camden counties. Food histories have been taken in 24 of the cases and 23 of the individuals who became sick ate at a Taco Bell restaurant in either They became sick between Nov. 20 and Nov. 29, possibly Nov. 30.

 

So far, at least 28 cases have been culture confirmed for E. coli, but are pending further test results to determine if they are part of the same strain and are linked to the same outbreak.

 

Test results will not be available today to determine if the individuals were infected with the same strain.

 

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