Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Eating at Taco Bell can be hazardous to your health

The Monday, Dec. 4 Trentonian had a full-page cover on the E. Coli outbreak in New Jersey, with AP text beginning:

At least 15 people were sickened, two seriously, by an E. coli outbreak in central New Jersey over the past two weeks, officials said.

"It’s a significant outbreak and it’s a serious disease,’’ Middlesex County Director of Health David Papi said yesterday.

The story also noted: Eleven of the 15 victims ate at a Taco Bell restaurant in South Plainfield that was voluntarily closed on Thursday [Nov. 30] while the investigation continued.

On Dec. 5, The Trentonian noted:

An E. coli outbreak that has sickened at least 22 people -- two of them seriously -- was linked by health investigators yesterday to three Taco Bell restaurants in New Jersey.


All of the people who fell ill in New Jersey had eaten at Taco Bells between Nov. 17 and Nov. 28, authorities said. Two employees also tested positive for the bacteria. But exactly what food was contaminated was still unclear.

ROBERT D. McFADDEN in the New York Times raised the issue of the delay in reporting the problem:

Some health officials acknowledged that an announcement of the contamination had been delayed in New Jersey for several days, in part over concerns for possible overreaction by the public. Some critics questioned the delay.

Carol Tucker Foreman, head of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America, said the delay had obviated a swift inspection of other outlets in the chain, which buys food in bulk. There are 204 Taco Bell restaurants in New York State, and 86 in New Jersey.

“I don’t know why they didn’t make that immediately known, and I don’t know why they didn’t do rush inspections of every other Taco Bell in the area,” Ms. Foreman said. “They purchase huge amounts of everything from a few suppliers. If you’ve got contaminated anything in one of their restaurants, you’ve got it in many. That’s the nature of fast food.”

Although no deaths have been reported, there are serious cases involving two New Jersey children who developed a condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can permanently damage the kidneys.

One recalls that in the E. Coli outbreak involving spinach back in Sept. 2006, there were deaths and there was a much more rapid notification of the public than with the Taco Bell (Yum Foods) problem.

Bloomberg noted:

E. coli O157:H7 is the most dangerous strain of a bacterium normally found in animal and human digestive tracts. It produces a poison called Shiga toxin that causes bloody diarrhea and can lead to kidney failure and death. Symptoms generally appear within eight days, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Although some news outlets had indicated the problem had passed, one notes E. Coli incidents extending into Pennsylvania, as reported on WCAU (Philly channel 10) on Dec. 6.

One IPBiz reader observed: I see the McGreevey Advertising and public relations Corp. Inc. has begun to trumpet that the Jersey Taco Bells have now gone to an "authentic mexican food" menu.

Also, from gamespot.com:

Several gamers waiting in line over the weekend for a PlayStation 3 hoped to make thousands of dollars by reselling the console to those willing to pay extraordinary prices. One gamer, however, is guaranteed to make $12,500... though not in American currency. Taco Bell, the Chihuahua-led Mexican fast-food dealer, is offering $12,500 in Taco Bell bucks (which the chain considers a lifetime supply) to the first gamer willing to part with a new PS3. Taco Bell isn't going to get its frijole-covered hands on the console; the chain is being donated to a Boys & Girls Club teen center. To donate a system in exchange for muchos tacos, send an e-mail to tacobellnews@tacobell.com. The first to respond and send off a PS3 will win.

IPBiz notes: hold the green onions....


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