Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Taco Bell

In October and November, 2011, an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis infections began to appear in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio and Tennessee. The CDC and the state health departments have been working together to identify the source of this outbreak.  Yesterday it was announced, after months of investigation, that Taco Bell restaurants were the source for the outbreak.

If you were diagnosed with Salmonella Enteritidis in October or November, 2011 after eating at a Taco Bell, you may be part of the outbreak that has been linked to 68 individuals in 10 different states. As a victim of Salmonella food poisoning myself, I know the suffering can be severe and at times, life-threatening.  Luckily there have no reported deaths associated with this outbreak.

The investigation showed that of the 52 ill persons for whom information was available, 60% reported eating at Taco Bell in the week before illness onset. They reported eating at 18 different locations of Taco Bell restaurants in the week before becoming ill. A total of 3 locations were identified where more than one ill person reported eating in the week before becoming ill. These findings indicate that contamination likely occurred before the product reached Taco Bell. The specific item has not been identified.

Tracing the Outbreak

In cases like this, the investigation begins with hospitals, physicians and laboratories reporting cases of Salmonella to local and state health departments.  Positive cultures are further tested using Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE), which identifies a specific strain or “DNA fingerprint” of a bacterium.  When more than one case identifies the same PFGE, an investigation begins.

Investigations include detailed questionnaires, in-person interviews, home inspections, etc. to determine a potential common source for the outbreak.  When a potential common source such as a specific product, grocery store, restaurant, or event is identified, then the investigation concentrates on the potential source to try and confirm that it is the source.

If you or a loved one were diagnosed with Salmonella in October or November, 2011 shortly after eating at a Taco Bell restaurant and want to discuss this matter further, I can provide you with information regarding the facts of your potential claim.

As an attorney representing food poisoning victims for over 10 years, I understand that this is a serious matter and deserves serious attention, particularly if the illness involved hospitalization, loss of work or the death of a loved one.


Hal Kleinman is an attorney with Janet, Jenner & Suggs. His practice focuses on the areas of medical negligence, mass torts and class actions representing victims of dangerous and defective pharmaceutical products and medical devices, as well as victims of food poisoning.

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