July 12, 2024

History of E. coli O26 Outbreaks Including Chipotle, Cargill Ground Beef

There are several serotypes of E. coli bacteria that cause serious human illness.  The most common is E. coli O157:H7, but other strains, called non-O157 serogroups, have also caused outbreaks. This is the history of E. coli O26 outbreaks including Chipotle and Cargill ground beef in the United States in the past five years.

History of E. coli O26 Outbreaks Including Chipotle, Cargill Ground Beef

The most common non-O157 serotypes are E. coli O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145. The government has grouped them into a category they call the “Big Six.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 265,000 people are sickened in this U.S. every year with these infections. E. coli O157:H7 causes about 36% of illnesses, while the Big Six are linked to the rest. In 2011, the USDA declared a zero tolerance policy for these strains, classifying them as adulterants.

All of these strains can cause a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), that is a type of kidney failure, although infections by the Big Six serotypes are less likely to lead to HUS. Still, people can be hospitalized and become seriously ill when they contract infections from these E. coli strains.

Chipotle E. coli O26 Outbreaks

In 2015, there were two E. coli O26 outbreaks at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in the United States. The first outbreak was detected by government officials in Washington and Oregon late in the year. the final case count included 55 people in 10 states. The second outbreak sickened five people in three states with a different strain of E. coli O26.

PulseNet was used to track these outbreaks. There were two different, rare DNA fingerprints of Shiga Toxin-producing E. coli O26. These illnesses were linked to eating at multiple Chipotle restaurants. Testing of multiple food items did not find the outbreak strain.

Cargill Meat Solutions Ground Beef Outbreak

A deadly E. coli O26 outbreak linked to recalled ground beef from Cargill Meat Solutions sickened at least eighteen people in four states in July of 2018. Cargill recalled ground beef products in September of that year.

One person developed hemolytic uremic syndrome as a complication of this infection. Six people were hospitalized, and one person died.

ADM Milling Flour E. coli O26 Outbreak

In 2019, and E. coli O26 outbreak was linked to ADM Milling flour. At least 21 people in 9 states were sickened in that outbreak.

Several products were recalled as a result of this outbreak investigation, including some lots of King Arthur Flour, Pillsbury Best Bread Flour, ALDI Baker’s Corner All Purpose Flour, and Brand Castle Cookie and Brownie Mixes.

Pritzker Hageman Food Safety Lawyers

If you or a loved one have been sickened with an E. coli infection, please contact our experienced attorneys for help at 1-888-377-8900 or 612-338-0202.


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