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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
December 08, 2006

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

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

DHSS Updates E. coli Investigation


          The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services is investigating 58 cases of illness potentially related to the multi-state outbreak of E. coli 0157 infection associated with Taco Bell restaurants.

Included in the total are 28 cases that meet the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) case definition as being associated with the outbreak.  This includes eight confirmed cases in Middlesex (7) and Essex (1) counties.  All eight have strains of E. coli 0157 that match those of other confirmed cases in New York and Delaware.

The other 20 -- all probable cases according to the CDC definition – are from Middlesex (13), Essex (1), Somerset (2), Union (2), Camden (1) and Hunterdon (1) counties.

New Jersey’s 28 outbreak-associated cases are linked to Taco Bell restaurants in Union, Passaic, and Somerset Counties.  The 28 people ranged in age from 4 to 37, and became ill between November 22 and 30.

“People who develop symptoms of possible E. coli infection should contact their health care provider immediately.  Symptoms could include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps or vomiting, but usually not fever,” said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.

In addition to participating in the epidemiologic investigation, the department’s Public Health and Environmental Laboratory has conducted laboratory testing on food samples from Taco Bell restaurants, their distributor McLane Foodservice Inc., in Burlington, and the distributor’s supplier, Ready Pac Produce in Florence.

Fifteen samples of green onions taken from McLane on December 6 have tested preliminarily negative.  The batches of green onions sampled were processed by McLane’s supplier, Ready Pac, November 26 or later, well after the outbreak began.

Twenty food samples taken from Taco Bells in South Plainfield and Edison have also tested negative in the DHSS laboratory.

In addition, the department’s Food and Drug Safety program today conducted inspections at McLane and Ready Pac.  Today’s McLane inspection did not indicate any problems with the firm’s food safety operations.  The Ready Pac inspection will be completed on Monday.

DHSS has authority over wholesale food establishments such as McLane and Ready Pac, and conducts periodic inspections to examine sanitation, food handling and processing, employee health and training, and other issues.

McLane 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 processes lettuce, tomatoes, onions and other produce items that are then shipped to McLane for distribution.

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