New Jersey Asks Taco Bells to Throw Out Food

New Jersey health officials addressing an E.coli outbreak on Wednesday asked Taco Bell restaurants in the state to throw out all their food and better train workers in hygiene and food handling.

At least 47 people in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania have been infected with E.coli in the last few weeks, and dozens more potential cases are being investigated. Many of the infected people had eaten at Taco Bell prior to becoming sick, the states said.

New York state officials on Wednesday raised the number of E.coli cases associated with the Taco Bell outbreak to 15 and said 15 more are being investigated.

Taco Bell officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Wednesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, Yum Brands unit Taco Bell said it stopped serving green onions at all of its 5,800 U.S. restaurants after tests showed three samples were found to be "presumptive positive" for the E.coli 0157:H7 strain.

New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred Jacobs said all Taco Bell restaurants in New Jersey should be sanitized and all their food should be thrown out.

In restaurants known to have associated E.coli cases, Jacobs said food workers should have their stool tested for E.coli and would need better training in proper food handling and cleanliness, the commissioner said in a statement.

An 11-year-old boy in New Jersey who suffered kidney damage due to an E.coli infection was moved out of intensive care and onto the pediatric ward late on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Newark Beth Israel Medical Center said.

In New York, 15 E.coli cases in Suffolk, Nassau, Clinton, Oneida and Otsego counties have been linked to Taco Bell, officials said on Wednesday. The state's health department had
previously identified cases in Suffolk and Nassau counties on Long Island.

Two of the four E.coli patients in Pennsylvania were also hospitalized because of their illnesses, a spokesman for that state's health department said.

New Jersey health officials said they and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration were investigating McLane Foodservice Inc. and Ready-Pac Produce in connection with the outbreak.

McLane distributes ingredients such as cheese, meat and produce to Taco Bell restaurants in New Jersey, Long Island, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Bart McKay, an attorney for McLane, said the company's Burlington, New Jersey, facility supplies 300 Taco Bell restaurants in the region as well as other outlets operated by Yum.

Ready Pac said in a statement that it was halting shipments of green onions to Taco Bell, and had stopped production and shipments of all green onions. It said it was working with Taco Bell, regulatory agencies and industry experts to determine the root cause of the issue.

The E.coli 0157:H7 strain identified by Yum in the onions causes an estimated 73,000 cases of infection and 60 deaths in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Taco Bell had closed eight restaurants on Long Island and one in New Jersey following the E.coli outbreak, but said on Tuesday that those were set to reopen.