It is believed the source of the latest E. coli outbreak in the United States in which 11 Taco Bells restaurants have been implicated, could be a distribution center in New Jersey.
Health officials suspect the McClane Company warehouse in Burlington, New Jersey could be at fault as the warehouse distributes food to 1,100 Taco Bell in the northeastern states and to other fast food restaurants.
The E. coli bacteria has to date sickened at least three dozen people; 9 remain in hospital in New Jersey and New York, including an 11-year-old boy who has kidney damage.
Cases have also cropped up in Connecticut and Pennsylvania and Taco Bells in Montgomery County in the Philadelphia suburbs have been closed.
On Tuesday, the parent company of Taco Bell reopened several restaurants in Suffolk County on the east end of Long Island in New York. Taco Bell president Greg Creed said that all stores were thoroughly disinfected and all food ingredients replaced.
The reopening of a restaurant in South Plainfield, N.J., was delayed.
E. coli infection can cause serious and even fatal illness in the elderly and small children and though the most common source is undercooked meat.
The bacteria also can be found on sprouts or leafy vegetables such as spinach; a recent outbreak was linked to prepackaged spinach from California.
The germs can be passed from person to person if they do not thoroughly wash their hands after using the toilet.
Health officials are unsure exactly which food at this stage is responsible for the E. coli outbreak but they believe the threat of more infections has passed.
Health officials say their investigation will probably focus on produce rather than just meat, because some of the 23 people who ate at New Jersey Taco Bells and were infected with E. coli were vegetarians.