December 2, 2023

E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak Linked to Trader Joe Glass Onion Salads 2013

In 2013, an E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak linked to Trader Joe’s Glass Onion ready-to-eat salads sickened 33 people in 4 states. Two patients developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) as a result of their infections. HUS is a type of kidney failure.

Glass Onion E. coli Salad Outbreak121113

E. coli bacteria are found in the intestinal tracts of mammals, particularly cattle. So how did this bacteria get into prepared salads? A recent study from the Food Standards Agency in the UK may provide some answers, even though the federal investigation did not pinpoint the ingredient that was contaminated in this outbreak or the method of contamination.

Cross-contamination is the cause of many food poisoning outbreaks when the food doesn’t naturally carry the disease-causing bacteria. Facilities that produce ready-to-eat foods use complex machinery to make those products. Vacuum packing machines, slicers, temperature probes, mixers, scales, and conveyor belts can become contaminated, especially when used to process raw meats, and then transfer bacteria to other foods. Dismantling equipment for cleaning and disinfecting on a regular basis is crucial to controlling bacteria in a food processing environment.

Ill employees can contaminate foods too. Employees should not work when they are sick, especially when they have diarrheal illnesses, but many do out of economic necessity. Many restaurants do not offer paid sick leave. Handwashing equipment in some facilities may not be adequate. Inspections have found that some facilities do not provide warm water and soap for their employees, or do not provide instructions that tell employees to wash their hands.

Rapid expansion of a business, and retrofitting a facility for food production may also be problematic, especially in Glass Onion’s case. The company grew very quickly when Trader Joe’s chains became a client.

In the Trader Joe’s Glass Onion E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, the case count was: Arizona (1), California (28), Texas (1), and Washington (3). Thirty two percent of ill persons were hospitalized; no deaths were reported. Glass Onion Catering recalled many of its ready-to-eat salads and sandwich wrap products as a result of this outbreak. Specifically, Field Fresh Chopped Salad with Grilled Chicken and Mexicali Salad with Chili Lime Chicken were mentioned in connection with the outbreak.

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