I spoke to Ms. Luna a hour or so ago about “Irvine-based Taco Bell [being] the prime suspect in a nationwide food scare that has sickened more than 150 people in 21 states.”  Her story in part:

salmonella.jpgThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said victims were made ill with two rare strains of salmonella over a period of time ranging from April 1 to July 19. So far, illnesses have not been reported in California. Last week, federal health officials tied the illnesses to food eaten “at a Mexican-style fast food restaurant chain.” On Monday, CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell said her agency “can’t confirm” the restaurant under investigation.

However, state health officials in Washington and Oregon, where cases have erupted, said Taco Bell restaurants are tied to the food scare. “Some [tainted] food went to Taco Bell and other places,” said William Keene, senior epidemiologist with Oregon Public Health Division, to the Register on Monday.

In fact, roughly 70 percent of the victims interviewed said they “ate at Taco Bell,” said Keene, who has been part of numerous conference calls with state and federal health officials about the salmonella probe.

On Friday, foodborne illness attorney Bill Marler filed a lawsuit against Taco Bell on behalf of a Kentucky client who was hospitalized for four days. Kentucky, which has reported 28 victims so far, was among the worst states hit by the two-strain outbreak. Marler said other clients, not named in the suit, have also confirmed eating at Taco Bell.

“We’ve been tracking [these strains] for three or four months,” Marler said in a phone interview Monday. “We looked at the common denominator. It was pretty clear it was Taco Bell.”

It is interesting that the CDC is singing a different tune that various state health departments (and one trial lawyer).