CDC Suspects Costco E. Coli Outbreak Likely Caused By Vegetable Celery Blend, Massive Company Recall

There was an outbreak of E. coli this week in Montana that has been linked to Costco Wholesale Corp. and left over 19 persons across seven states suffering from E. Coli. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that the responsible party was the rotisserie chicken salad that Costco used and now the business has had to recall their products.

It has been determined that the E. Coli outbreak was a celery-and-onion blend that Taylor Farms Pacific Inc. provides to Costco. Costco says they are the only supplier for the vegetables in the chicken salad that are sold in all of its U.S. stores. Taylor Farms Pacific Inc. operates out of Tracy, California, and when on Friday health officials in Montana tested a sample of the celery-and-onion blend and definitely reported their results, Taylor Farms recalled all their products which contained celery, just in case.

Despite the fact that the product has been recalled, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it expects that the number of E. coli cases which are linked to the deli celery blend to continue to grow during the next few weeks. This is mainly due to the large amount of stores and products that it would have already been distributed to and most likely used at already. The CDC reported that almost 90 percent of the persons suffering from the E. coli outbreak had purchased or eaten the chicken salad dish in the week leading up to their confirmed diagnosis of the illness.

Costco, which has its headquarters in Issaquah, Washington, also went ahead and pulled the chicken salad off all their store shelves nationwide and posted signs of warnings in the stores informing customers of the health risk. Costco also provided detailed purchase logs to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in order to help it track exactly who purchased the product and where all their salad ingredients originally came from.

According to Bloomberg the CDC reported that the E. coli outbreak at Costco has resulted in five people being admitted to the hospital, two of whom have actually developed a type of kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome. The states that were affected due to the outbreak are California, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

The Food and Drug Administration released a statement on Thursday that said Taylor Farms Pacific Inc. recalling all products with a mix of diced celery and onion like those used in the Costco chicken salads and other products containing celery is "out of an abundance of caution." Their celery-inclusive vegetable mixes included items such as Thai-style salads as well as packaged dinners and wraps. In addition to Costco, the products are also sold at Starbucks, Target, and Walmart, among other grocery stores and they all use the mix in their prepared deli foods.

UPI has a statement from Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, who commented on the seriousness of this E. Coli outbreak.

"This is a very bad strain. This is one of those strains of E. coli that can result in subsequent kidney failure, especially among children. So it's a much more hazardous strain than the one that involved the Chipotle restaurants."
Fortunately no deaths have been reported as a result of the infections, even though this particular strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli can be life-threatening.

There has also been a recent outbreak of E. Coli linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc, that infected 43 persons. Chipotle closed 43 of their restaurants in Oregon and Washington for over a week while they tried to trace the cause of the infection, with no success.

Health officials are urging anyone with E. coli symptoms, which include diarrhea, to go see their doctors -- especially if they have eaten Costco chicken salad.

[Photo Courtesy of Alastair Wallace/Shutterstock]