October 23, 2016

Mighty Taco Outbreak Caused by Bacillus Cereus

The food poisoning outbreak at Mighty Taco restaurants in Erie and Niagara Counties in New York state was caused by Bacillus cereus, Mary C. St. Mary of the Erie County Department of Health told Food Poisoning Bulletin. At least 158 people have been sickened in this outbreak.

Refried beans

The statement she sent to us reads: “The Wadsworth Center, the public health laboratory of the New York State Department of Health, has identified Bacillus cereus in patient clinical specimens, as well as from refried beans collected from Mighty Taco restaurants, as part of an investigation into gastrointestinal illness among several patrons of certain Mighty Taco restaurants. Bacillus cereus is a type of bacteria that produces a toxin that causes illness, usually resulting in vomiting within 30 minutes to 6 hours after eating contaminated food. This is consistent with the symptoms described by those who became ill shortly after eating at Mighty Taco.

“The investigation into this outbreak is continuing, and all laboratory tests are not complete yet. The United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) is investigating the source/supplier of the refried beans. There have been no recent reports of gastrointestinal illness among patrons of Mighty Taco.”

Bacillus cereus is a kind of bacteria that produces toxins that make you sick. The toxins can cause diarrhea, or nausea and vomiting, depending on the toxin produced. The illness occurs quickly, within 30 minutes to 6 hours of exposure to the bacteria, and lasts about 24 hours.

To prevent this illness, cooked foods should always be refrigerated no longer than two hours after cooking. Hot foods must be kept over 140°F, and cold foods should be kept under 40°F. Bacillus cereus numbers can double in less than 20 minutes when it is present in foods that are held at unsafe temperatures.

Mighty Taco removed all refried beans, the suspect food, from its restaurants on October 6, 2016. Since then, there have been no illnesses reported. The supplier of the refried beans is Pellegrino Food Products of Warren, Pennsylvania.

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