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Health Officials Hesitant to Link E. Coli to CA Produce


Aired 4/19/09

California-grown green onions may be tied to an E. Coli outbreak at several Taco Bell restaurants on the East Coast. But state health officials say it would be premature to link California produce to that outbreak. KPBS Radio’s Andrew Phelps explains.

The recipe for a bean burrito at Taco Bell calls for beans, cheese, red sauce and green onions. The scallions come from the company ReadyPac, which is a middleman between the grower and the restaurant. ReadyPac says the grower is in Oxnard. But California health officials have yet to contact the grower. Kevin Riley of the state health department says the E. Coli might not be linked to scallions at all—let alone a California product.

Riley : At this point the investigation hasn’t identified a specific food item. Basically from the State of California’s perspective, we follow where the evidence goes. No food items have been implicated.

Taco Bell’s preliminary tests found E. Coli in the scallions, but more tests could prove that wrong. Back in October, an E. Coli outbreak devastated the California spinach market. For KPBS, I’m Andrew Phelps.

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