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A Mexican-style restaurant chain has been linked to an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis infections that affected 68 people in 10 US states between October 13th and December 1st, 2011. Thirty-one percent of the confirmed outbreak victims were hospitalized.

CDC has declined to identify the chain, which it refers to simply as Restaurant Chain A in its first – and final – report on this outbreak.

According to CDC, the outbreak affected consumers in Texas (43 confirmed reports), Oklahoma (16), Kansas (2), Iowa (1), Michigan (1), Missouri (1), Nebraska (1), New Mexico (1), Ohio (1) and Tennessee. Victims range in age from less than one year to 79 years old, with a median age of 25. Slightly more than one-half (54%) of the victims were female. There were no deaths.

An investigation carried out by CDC, FDA and state public health officials determined that eating at Restaurant Chain A (described as a Mexican-style fast food restaurant) was significantly associated with illness. Sixty-two percent (62%) of outbreak victims reported eating at the implicated chain in the week before becoming ill; only 17% of well people ate at that chain in the week before being interviewed.

Although no single food or ingredient was associated with the illnesses, 90% of outbreak victims reported eating lettuce, 94% ate ground beef, 77% ate cheese and 35% ate tomatoes. After reviewing the handling and cooking processes used by the restaurant chain, CDC concluded that ground beef was not the likely source of this outbreak.

For now, CDC has the following advice to share:

  • At this time, there is no specific advice to consumers.
  • Consumers are not warned to avoid any specific foods or restaurants.
  • If a food source is identified for this outbreak and if there is evidence of continued risk of infection, public health officials will advise the public and take the necessary steps to avoid risk of additional illnesses.
  • To facilitate successful traceback efforts and outbreak investigations, retail establishments should maintain detailed records of food suppliers and distributors.

Or, in a word, NOTHING!