Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Center for Disease Control (see Scientific Links below) has reported that the Taco Bell E. coli outbreak appears to be over. As of Dec. 14th 71 cases of E. coli diarrhea linked to the Taco Bell restaurant chain had been identified. Fifty three of these people had been hospitalized and 8 had developed hemolytic uremic syndrome which can lead to renal failure. The outbreak affected six states, Delaware, New jersey, New York, South Carolina, Utah and Pennsylvania. At the same time there was an unrelated outbreak in the Midwest (Iowa and Minnesota) connected to the 'Taco John's' chain. As of Dec. 13th this incident had sickened 77 people. This second outbreak results from bacteria that have a different genetic fingerprint from that involved in the Taco Bell cases.
The culprit in both cases, however, is the E. Coli strain O157:H7 also implicated in the outbreak earlier in the fall that sickened 200 people and resulted in three deaths. Earlier reports of green onions as the carrier have been discounted, and present epidemiological study is focused on iceberg lettuce.
I've recently added another link to this blog under the 'Scientific Links' section ie the University of Minnesota's 'Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy ( -see also the links section below). This site is extremely useful, as is the CDC site for following matters connected with food safety, public health, emerging infectious diseases, agricultural and food biosecurity. It has a news section that is updated on a daily basis.
What won't be discussed under the "public policy" section, however, is any fundamental challenges to the way agribiz presently operates. There is, of course, no way that future incidents of food borne illness can ever be totally eliminated. Magic bullets are an illusion. "Organic" produce is just as likely, and often much more ! likely to transmit such disease. If, however, more food was produced and consumed locally (a matter discussed previously on this blog under the Local Food Movement- see 'The Slow Food Movement' under the Other Interesting Links section for more on this) any outbreaks would be far more likely to be local in nature and therefore less serious. Not that they wouldn't occur, but they would be much less likely to be continental in scope such as the spinach outbreak in the fall was.

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