Taco Bell e. Coli: It Was California Lettuce

Yep, lovers of Taco Bell’s peculiar brand of meat can rest easy, it was the lettuce. From the Seattle Times:

    Prepackaged iceberg lettuce from California has been linked to two separate outbreaks of E. coli that sickened more than 150 Taco Bell and Taco John’s customers late last year on the East Coast and in the Midwest, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said.

    One likely problem is the proximity of ranching and farming operations in parts of California. Cattle and other animals harbor the bacteria, which is shed in their feces.

    Supporting that theory, Acheson said officials found the same substrain of E. coli involved in the Taco John’s outbreak in two unidentified “environmental samples” from a dairy adjacent to one of the chain’s lettuce growers.

Cow shit in the lettuce. That’s appetizing. —MEGHANN MARCO

California lettuce linked to 2 E. coli outbreaks [Seattle Times]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Amy Alkon says:

    “California cows are…” …cows with really bad diarrhea.

  2. spin_sycle says:

    wait, first is was poo in the cali spinach…now the lettuce?

    some kinda strange pattern here!

  3. adamondi says:

    Of course there is cow crap in the lettuce. Lots of produce is grown using cow feces as fertilizer. The problem is not using it as a fertilizer. The problem is that the produce is not being properly washed before it is put into Taco Bell “food.”

  4. Avacasso says:

    Well, that explains why my crunchy taco supreme tasted like shit.


  6. WindowSeat says:

    The problem isn’t cow feces being used as fertilizer or even produce being washed properly. The problem is farming operations next to feedlot operations and the sick cattle being kept on the feedlots. Rain carries diluted, infected feces into the fields and the e.coli is taken up into the plants.

    If the feedlot were run properly and the waste was composted the run-off would be minimal and the e.coli killed in the composting process.

    By the way, there aren’t usually toilets in fields either and just because a bag of lettuce says “triple washed” doesn’t make it clean. It just means that huge amounts of clean lettuce have been mixed and washed with minor amounts of dirty/infected lettuce so that the chances of getting sick are increased. Wash your greens folks!

  7. pronell says:

    And I’d think it’s a contributing factor that these are corn-fed cows. I don’t think E coli is as much of a problem in grass-fed cows. So if that’s correct, the greed of the beef people (not those specific farms, as corn-fed beef is pretty much the industry standard) is damaging the interests of the plant-growers.

  8. offtowar says:

    Oh, beautiful. Every attempt I’ve made as a vegan to avoid the health problems created by animal products was in vain. I will be killed by the beef industry no matter what!

  9. Magister says:

    Windowseat brings up a good point. Take lake of proper sanitation and illegals lacking any idea how to stay clean, and you will get e. coli. I bet migrant workers failing to clean thier hands is a much greater risk.

    Then again, all vegatables are bad for you.

  10. WindowSeat says:


    I’m pretty sure the people working in the fields know how to keep themselves clean. I think like the huge feedlots, the farms are run by people who care more about profit than providing proper sanitation.

    The people who work in the fields do a job that no-one is willing to do and they are treated abysmally and quite often are in virtual slavery. To further denigrate them as ignorant and filthy does them a great injustice.

    My family has been in this country about 125 years and the immigration status of some of my ancestors is a bit fuzzy. They did the jobs no-one wanted to do back then like working the fields and slaughtering cattle. My Irish ancestors in particular were singled out along with the Chinese as being sub-human by the xenophobes of their day.

    If you felt that my comment about the lack of toilets in the fields was a good place to score a few points on immigrants let me clarify by saying the guy who drives the tractor probably doesn’t head back to the house to take a dump either.

  11. Marler says:

    During the last four months of 2006, U.S. consumers suffered an epidemic of
    bacterial contamination in their produce supply. The numbers are staggering.
    In September, people across the country were struck with the largest E. coli
    O157:H7 outbreak in history associated with leafy greens. FDA’s official
    figures reflect 204 confirmed illnesses and three deaths. FDA quickly
    followed with announcements that two distinct Salmonella outbreaks had been
    traced to contaminated tomatoes grown in the Southeast and served in
    restaurants, sickening nearly 400. But there was still more. In early
    December, several state health departments, along with FDA and CDC,
    announced another outbreak of E. coli O157:H7. This time, over 70 people
    were confirmed ill as the result of eating contaminated lettuce in products
    sold at Taco Bell restaurants. Almost immediately thereafter, it happened
    again. Nearly 100 more restaurant customers became ill with E. coli O157:H7
    infections after consuming lettuce provided at Taco John’s restaurants in
    Iowa and Minnesota.

    Standing alone, the events of the past four months evidence a serious
    problem. But these outbreaks do not stand alone. In particular, there is a
    long history of E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks associated with leafy greens.
    Prior to September’s spinach outbreak, the fresh produce industry and the
    FDA were aware of what the regular consumer was not aware: that prepackaged
    spinach and lettuce were potentially risky foods with respect to
    contamination with E. coli. According to a new article in the New England
    Journal of Medicine written by Dr. Dennis G. Maki, the latest outbreak is
    “at least the 26th reported outbreak of E. coli infections that has been
    traced to contaminated leafy green vegetables since 1993.” FDA counts 20
    such outbreaks since 1996, and states “a majority of the outbreaks,
    including the recent outbreak in September of 2006, traced product back to
    California, eight of which were from the Salinas Valley.” Among these was an
    outbreak associated with Salinas Valley spinach that killed two elderly
    nursing home residents in 2003.

    FDA has made past attempts to spur the fresh produce industry into action.
    In 1998, FDA issued guidance to the industry entitled “Guide to Minimize
    Microbial FoodSafety Hazards for Fruits and Vegetables.” The guide was
    specifically designed to assist growers and packers in the implementation of
    safer manufacturing practices. On February 5, 2004, the FDA issued a letter
    to the lettuce and tomato industries to “make them aware of [FDA’s] concerns
    regarding continuing outbreaks associated with these two commodities and to
    encourage the industries to review their practices.”

    Nevertheless, the outbreaks continued, apparently unabated. In the fall of
    2005, another E. coli outbreak was traced to lettuce grown in the Salinas
    Valley, and distributed nationwide. FDA sharpened its rhetoric with growers
    in its November 2005 “Letter to California Firms that Grow, Pack, Process,
    or Ship Fresh and Fresh-Cut Lettuce.” Still in the end, FDA was simply
    “encourage[ing] firms in your industry to review their current operations.”

    Encouragement is no longer enough. It is time that growers, producers,
    manufacturers, restaurants, grocers, and consumers were asked to the table
    to talk about these ongoing outbreaks and how to prevent them in the future.
    Congress needs to act now and discuss the following:

    – How these recent outbreaks actually happened and what can be done to
    prevent or limit the next one.
    – Increasing funding for university-based research, health department
    epidemiological surveillance, and prevention of bacterial and viral
    – Pre-consumption bacterial and viral testing of raw food products,
    especially those where no “kill step” is expected.
    – Making mandatory good agricultural and food handling practices.
    – The proposal to create a single federal agency charged with ensuring the
    nation’s food safety, whether the food is grown within the United States or
    in foreign countries.

    It is time for Congress to accept a leadership role and call hearings, not
    only to explore the reasons for the past months’ outbreaks, but also to help
    prevent the next one. Congress must reach out to all facets of the produce
    industry, from “farm to fork,” to consumers who bear the burden of
    illnesses, and to academics and regulators, to find reasonable, workable
    solutions to prevent produce-related illnesses. Getting all interested
    parties at the same table is a start.

    As an attorney who has represented hundreds of victims of past
    produce-related outbreaks, I would like to offer whatever assistance you
    would find useful in finding solutions to this plague on consumers and
    farmers. Many of my clients who have suffered acute kidney failure or lost
    family members to E. coli poisoning would be willing to speak with you
    directly or at hearings so all can understand the devastation caused by
    contaminated produce.

    William D. Marler, Esq.
    Marler Clark LLP PS
    6600 Columbia Center
    701 Fifth Avenue
    Seattle, Washington 98104

    P: 1-206-346-1890
    F: 1-206-407-2253
    C: 1-206-794-5043
    E: bmarler@marlerclark.com
    W: http://www.marlerclark.com
    See also, http://www.marlerblog.com

  12. Windowseat is spot on. Spend some time in the central valley or the salinas valley and watch.

  13. phrygian says:

    On of my in-laws works for Farm Bureau. After the orangic spinach e coli outbreak, I was informed that organic food’s not as “safe” as non-organic because the organic industry doesn’t have as strict safety standards. (I’m all about organic produce and growing my own organic foodstuffs, so the message wasn’t intended as friendly.)

    Now that non-organic lettuce being implicated in an e coli scare, I’ll have to bring up the subject again and see if my in-law’s tune has changed.

  14. Ben Popken says:

    Magister, your comment is not only inappropriate, but factually incorrect. A bunch of your comments have been straying lately, reign it in.