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Scientists at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been investigating the source of two recent multistate salmonella outbreaks, and some experts say Taco Bell veggies are the likely culprit.

The CDC has identified the outbreak source only as a “Mexican-style fast food restaurant chain,” but Oregon Senior Epidemiologist William E. Keene told The Oregonian that Taco Bell has been in investigators’ crosshairs. He cautioned, however, that “it’s equally clear that it’s not all Taco Bell. It’s also not a single Taco Bell restaurant.”

The combined outbreaks have sickened 155 consumers, with 42 hospitalizations. Lawsuits have recently been filed, but Taco Bell’s chief quality assurance officer maintains the chain’s food is safe.

Taco Bell’s shredded lettuce was linked to an E. coli outbreak in 2006. Initially, investigators suspected green onions had sickened more than 70 people in five states.

Photo: jdsmith1021