Starbucks E. Coli Scare Forces Recall Of Holiday Menu Item From Over 1,300 Stores

Add Starbucks to the ever-growing list of companies affected by E. coli bacteria. The Seattle coffee maker has announced a recall of a popular holiday menu item, turkey paninis. The sandwiches are made using the same celery product linked to the ongoing Costco E. coli outbreak.

Earlier this month, 19 people became ill after eating E. coli-contaminated chicken salad bought at Costco Wholesale, as reported previously by the Inquisitr. In response to the outbreak, the members-only shopping club recalled the product nationwide.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found E. coli bacteria in the celery and onion mix used in the Costco chicken salad. Taylor Farms, the vegetable supplier for the mix, immediately recalled the product.

The E. coli-tainted celery from Taylor Farms prompted many companies to recall products this past holiday week. The list now includes Starbucks, which has since removed the turkey sandwich from the menu.

From a report by Bloomberg, Starbucks fears E. coli may be in the Taylor Farms celery blend used to make their holiday turkey paninis. The tainted assortment is an ingredient in the cranberry cornbread stuffing for the sandwich.

The premium coffee juggernaut has since recalled over 45,000 sandwiches from 1,347 stores in California, Oregon, and Nevada. No reports of illness due to E. coli have been linked to Starbucks as of yet.

The current E. coli scare not only affects Starbucks and Costco. Taylor Farms is the vegetable supplier of products sold in 7-Eleven, Target, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Safeway, Albertsons, King Soopers, Pantry, Raley’s, and Savemart. The companies removed any products that may contain the diced celery, including snack trays, chicken salad, tuna salad, macaroni salad, potato salad, and sandwich wraps.

The total number of products that could be polluted by the potentially deadly bacteria is now over 150,000. Although most of the foods are distributed to the western U.S., states like Georgia, Nebraska, Arkansas, and Hawaii, are also included in the massive celery recall.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the strain of bacteria found in the celery is known as E. coli 0157:H7.

When someone is infected with the microorganisms, a variety of symptoms can occur, including diarrhea. Although most healthy adults will recover from the illness in about a week, some can develop Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure. In some cases, HUS can lead to permanent kidney damage and death.

Food contamination from E. coli and salmonella affects a substantial amount of the population. The CDC reports that about 48 million people become ill due to a foodborne-related illness every year. Of that, 150,000 end up in the hospital and 3,000 die.

While millions of people become sick due to contamination like E. coli, the number of food recalls in the U.S. are rising at an alarming rate. A report published by reinsurance group, Swiss Re, indicates that recalls have essentially doubled since 2002. The total financial and health costs associated can be enormous.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that $15.6 billion was spent on healthcare-related costs of foodborne illnesses in 2013 alone. Much of this was a direct result from foods that were subsequently recalled.

Starbucks recalls sandwich from menu.
Starbucks just announced that it may have been affected by the recent E. coli outbreak. [Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images]

It only takes one contaminated food item to cause substantial financial injury to food companies. Approximately half of the companies affected by recalls lose more than $10 million, while some estimates reach close to $100 million. These figures do not account for losses from the company’s spoiled reputation, which can take years to recover from.

With a globalized food supply chain, consumers must rely on food companies and government regulation to ensure food safety. A difficult and daunting task with much room for error.

Just in the past few weeks, major companies, including Chipotle Mexican Grill, Costco, and Taylor Farms, have been affected by food contamination. And it is still unclear just how far-reaching the effects will be.

As the number of E. coli bacteria food contamination cases and recalls, like the Starbucks’ menu item, seems to be on the rise, should we be concerned about the safety of our food supply?

[Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]