The investigation into the E .coli outbreak linked to Costco Rotisserie Chicken Salad has hit a snag. Several weeks ago, the Montana Public Health Laboratory tested a sample, collected from a Costco in Montana, of Taylor Farms celery and onion mix used to make the salad. Preliminary results indicated the presence of E. coli O157:H7. The finding triggered a massive recall of celery and products containing celery produced by Taylor Farms Pacific Inc. But now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that it, too, tested the sample and found no E. coli O157:H7.
Officials from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say diced celery and onion blend has not been ruled out as a source of the outbreak. They just can’t confirm Montana’s findings. The ingredients of the salad include rotisserie chicken, seasonings, water, eggs, celery and onions.
The outbreak includes 19 people in seven states. Five of them have been hospitalized; two with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening complication that causes kidney failure, seizure, stroke and coma.
The CDC says it has received no new reports of illness since November 23. By state, the case count is as follows: California (1), Colorado (4), Missouri (1), Montana (6), Utah (5), Virginia (1), and Washington (1).
The case patients range in age from 5 to 84. During interviews with health investigators, they reported onset of illness dates ranging from October 6 to November 3. Most of them began between October 22 and November 3.
Symptoms of an E. coli infection include abdominal cramps and diarrhea that can be bloody. Anyone who ate the chicken salad and has these symptoms should see a doctor and mention exposure to E. coli.
Symptoms of HUS, usually appear on the seventh or eight day of an E. coli infection. They include pale skin, lethargy, little or no urine output, unexplained bruises, and a skin rash. Anyone experiencing those symptoms should see a doctor immediately.
Prepared salads have been the source of other E. coli outbreaks. In 2013, an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak was linked to two kinds of pre-packaged, ready-to-eat salads made for Trader Joe’s grocery stores by Glass Onion Catering. Thirty three people were sickened.
In 2014, an E. coli outbreak on the Fond du Lac Reservation in Minnesota were sickened by potato salad that was prepared by a catering company for a meeting. Sixty three people were sickened and nine people were hospitalized. Health officials identified contaminated celery as the source of that outbreak.
Also in 2014, an E. coli O111 outbreak was linked to Oriental Chicken Salad served at Applebee’s restaurants in Minnesota. Fifteen people were sickened in that outbreak.