As E. Coli Outbreaks Move From Chipotle To Costco, Consumers Question The Safety Of Their Food

With E. Coli-infected salad from Costco spreading through seven states a few weeks after bad Chipotle food infected diners in six states, consumers are beginning to question whether their food is safe.

The E. Coli outbreaks come the same month the USDA recalled over 167,000 pounds of ground beef, and the CDC is worried the number of infected cases will increase.

At least 19 people across the country have been infected with E. Coli after eating Costco’s rotisserie chicken salad. Five have been hospitalized and two have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a kind of kidney failure, according to Reuters.

Seattle food safety attorney Bill Marler told Reuters that the HUS cases were twice what is normally seen with a different kind of E. Coli, O157:H7. It’s this second kind of E. Coli that has been identified in the Costco outbreak.

“This tells me that the number of ill is likely going to go up because the HUS cases are easier to track.”

It’s now being reported that the vegetables in the salad, from a California farm, are responsible for the Costco E. Coli outbreak. The mix of diced celery and onion used in the salad can also be found in Thai-style salads and packaged dinners from Target, Starbucks, and other outlets.

The farm responsible for the produce has issued a massive recall.

Residents from California, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Utah, Virginia, and Washington have reported being infected with E. Coli from the Costco salad. The company says it pulled the salad from its shelves as soon as it was notified of the outbreak, but that didn’t stop its shares from dropping.

Health officials are warning Costco customers to examine any salad they still have in their fridge. If the label has the number 37719, they’re advised to throw it away.

The store was also linked to an E. Coli outbreak last year.

Earlier this month, the restaurant chain Chipotle was linked to an E. Coli outbreak that affected at least 39 people across six states.

The company’s stock dropped 12 percent to an 18-month low, and the chain was forced to close 43 restaurants as it searched for the infected ingredient. Although Costco stock seems to have survived the E. Coli outbreak, Chipotle stock isn’t doing as well. Shares continued their decline Friday.

Health officials are still searching for the E. Coli-contaminated ingredient, and any infected food has likely been tossed already so tracking the culprit may prove difficult, the CDC’s investigator told the Columbus Dispatch.

There are still significant challenges to getting trace back.

November began with a recall of almost 168,000 pounds of beef because of possible E. Coli contamination. Nebraska-based All American Meats Inc. recalled the beef produced Oct. 16 with a sell-by date of Nov. 3.

The meat was sold in 60- and 80-pound batches to retailers nationwide, the company spokesman told ABC News.

“Everything produced that day was recalled as a precaution.”

Health officials fear consumers are storing the tainted beef in their freezers. They urge people to throw out the beef rather than risk contamination.

E. Coli is almost impossible to stop if the tainted food is found to be fruits or vegetables. The bacteria can hide in crevices and cracks and the effort needed to scour it away would reduce the food to pulp.

E. Coli symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. It may take up to seven days after eating infected food for the symptoms to show up.

Anyone experiencing the symptoms is encouraged to visit their local hospital.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]