November 28, 2021

Largest Multistate Food Poisoning Outbreaks 2015: #7, Costco E. coli

e.coli-costco-rotisserie-chicken-saladThe seventh largest multistate food poisoning outbreak of 2015 was the E. coli outbreak linked to Costco Rotisserie Chicken Salad. At least 19 people in seven states were sickened.  Five people were hospitalized; two of them developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening complication that causes kidney failure, seizure, stroke and coma.

There is some uncertainty about the specific ingredient in the salad that caused the outbreak. The Montana Public Health Laboratory tested a sample of diced celery and onion from Taylor Farms used to make the salad and 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 later the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it, too, tested the sample and did not find 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.

A Montana woman who became ill after eating the salad filed a lawsuit against Costco. She purchased the salad from a Costco in Bozeman.

By state, the number of those sickened  was as follows: California (1), Colorado (4), Missouri (1), Montana (6), Utah (5), Virginia (1), and Washington (1). The case patients ranged 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.

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.

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