We were recently contacted by an Iowa resident who appears to have contracted E. coli O157:H7 (E. coli) after eating at Taco John’s in Cedar Falls, Iowa. At last count, nearly three dozen people have fallen ill with E. coli infections after eating at the Ceder Falls Taco John’s restaurant and one in Albert Lea, Minnesota. At the same time, 64 confirmed cases of E. coli poisoning have been linked to Taco Bell restaurants in five States. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware authorities are also investigating nearly 400 additional E. coli illnesses tied to the Taco Bell outbreak.

Tacos and Taco Bell are certainly familiar with E. coli. In 1999, 10 people became ill with E. coli infections in an outbreak traced to Taco Bell, including a 5-year-old girl and an 8-year-old girl who were hospitalized.  In early December 2000, Taco Bells in Florida, Kentucky and Nevada were connected to Hepatitis A poisonings of dozens of customers. The suspect product: green onions.  An outbreak of shigellosis in Washington and six other Western states stemming from a contaminated Mexican-style dip sickened over 300 in 2000. At least 250 patrons got sick, and one died in October, 2000, after suffering from shigellosis connected to a Viva Mexico restaurant in California. In November, 2003, at least 660 people were sickened, and four died from Hepatitis A contracted from Mexican-grown green onions served at a Pennsylvania Chi-Chi’s restaurant. The outbreak, linked to similar outbreaks in Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina, is considered the largest single-source epidemic of Hepatitis A in U.S. history. In 2004, five people were sickened at Habaneros, a once-popular Mexican restaurant at the St. Clair Square Mall outside St. Louis, Missouri.