Trader Joe's E. coli OutbreakIn October and November 2013, local, state and federal public health officials investigated an outbreak of E. coli O157 experienced by patients residing in four states, Arizona, California, Texas, and Washington. Epidemiologic and traceback investigations identified two ready-to-eat salads, Field Fresh Chopped Salad with Grilled Chicken and Mexicali Salad with Chili Lime Chicken, produced by Glass Onion Catering and sold at Trader Joe’s grocery store locations as the source of the outbreak. On December 11, 2013, the outbreak was declared to be over. At that time a total of 33 persons with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157 had been identified. This strain had not been seen before. Thirty two percent of ill persons were hospitalized. Two developed hemolytic uremic syndrome. No deaths were reported.
Public health investigators interviewed ill persons to obtain information regarding foods they might have eaten and other exposures in the week before illness. Nineteen (86%) of 22 ill persons interviewed reported shopping at different Trader Joe’s grocery store locations. Twelve of 15 ill persons reported consuming ready-to-eat salad purchased from Trader Joe’s stores. The two implicated salads, the Field Fresh Chopped salad with Grilled Chicken and Mexicali Salad with Chili Lime Chicken, were consumed by 12 of 15 ill persons interviewed.
On November 10, 2013, Glass Onion Catering recalled numerous ready-to-eat salads and sandwich wrap products. Approximately 181,620 pounds of ready-to-eat salads and sandwich wrap products with fully cooked chicken and ham were recalled to due possible contamination with E. coli O157. The products were produced between September 23, 2013 and November 6, 2013, and shipped to distribution centers intended for retail sale in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington. These were products regulated by USDA FSIS. In a related recall announcement on November 10, 2013, Glass Onion Catering recalled additional ready-to-eat salads and wraps regulated by the FDA. These products had “Best By” dates of September 23, 2013 through November 14, 2013.
Marler Clark represented 9 of the 15 people involved in the outbreak, reaching settlements covering medical expenses, wage loss, and pain and suffering.