An E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in New Jersey has sickened at least 19 people, most of whom reported eating at New Jersey Taco Bell restaurants in the days before they became ill with symptoms of E. coli infections.
The victims range in age from one to 23 years old. Seven remain hospitalized, two with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a complication of an E. coli infection that can lead to kidney failure, central nervous system impairment, and death.
Health officials are working to trace the source of the outbreak back to a particular food served at Taco Bell restaurants in South Plainfield, Edison, and Franklin Township. A 1999 outbreak traced to San Francisco-area Taco Bell restaurants was determined to be caused by consumption of under-cooked ground beef; however, recent E. coli outbreaks at other fast food restaurants have also been traced to contaminated fresh produce such as lettuce.