Farm Recalls Produce Used in Costco Salad Linked to E. Coli

27 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Costco E. coli outbreak related to vegetables in chicken salad.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California farm is recalling a vegetable mix believed to be the source of E.coli in Costco chicken salad that has been linked to an outbreak that has sickened 19 people in seven states, the Food and Drug Administration said Thursday. The E. coli outbreak traced to Costco chicken salads appears to have been caused by vegetables in the salad, rather than the chicken itself, according to company officials. The foods range from Thai-style salads to packaged dinners and wraps, and they are sold at Costco, Target, Starbucks and many other outlets, the FDA said. Costco, based in Issaquah, Washington, pulled the chicken salad off store shelves nationwide, posted signs in its stores and provided detailed purchase logs to the U.S.

The specific type of bacteria in this outbreak, E coli O157, is particularly dangerous, especially for children, said Ben Chapman, an associate professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University. One in 6 Americans — more than 48 million people — are sickened by the food they eat each year in the country, causing about 3,000 deaths and 125,000 hospitalizations, costing the economy $14.1 billion, according to the CDC. Fresh produce is particularly vulnerable to contaminants, simply because it’s not cooked. “When it comes to produce, there is no zero risk,” Chapman said. “There are just so many points where it can be contaminated, between the field and someone’s plate.” E. coli can get into the food chain in a variety of ways. The number of people sickened in the outbreak will likely grow over the next few weeks, even though the product has been removed from store shelves, the CDC said Wednesday.

Both Costco and Taylor Farms have good reputations for food safety, said William Marler, a Seattle attorney who has represented victims of food-borne illness and whose law firm operates a data base of food poisoning outbreaks. “Costco has always done a good job with food safety,” Marler said. “They are probably one of the better stores out there, which shows just how vulnerable a supply chain is to E. coli or salmonella. Even if you have the best food safety systems in place, it always requires constant monitoring and oversight.” Likewise, Marler said, “Taylor Farms is a big player in the fresh vegetable industry. That recall shows that even fully cooked chicken is vulnerable to bacteria, if workers inadvertently contaminate the cooked birds with juice from raw chickens, Marler said.

The rules follow years of work by regulators amid a rash of food-borne illnesses linked to dirty food processing equipment and poorly designed facilities. Those incidents include a listeria outbreak last April that killed three at a Kansas hospital where Blue Bell ice cream was served, and another outbreak in 2011 linked to Colorado cantaloupe, which killed 30 people.

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