Multistate E. coli outbreak linked to chicken salad sold by Costco, but what ingredient caused the illnesses?

The FDA and other government agencies have a mystery on their hands. Exactly what ingredient  caused chicken salad sold by Costco to sicken at least 19 people in 7 states? The following is a shorter version of the  FDA's December 8 update on this outbreak that came to the attention of the public with the recall of an onion/celery mix that may, in fact, not be the contaminated product.


FDA Investigates Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O157 Infections Linked to Rotisserie Chicken Salad from Costco


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (USDA FSIS), and state and local authorities are investigating an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7 illnesses that have been reported in California, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.


Update: December 8, 2015


FDA laboratory analysis did NOT confirm the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in a sample of a celery/onion mix produced by Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc., of Tracy, California, which the Montana Department of Health concluded had preliminarily tested positive for E. coli O157:H7.


On November 26, 2015, Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. voluntarily recalled 71 products citing “an abundance of caution" due to a Celery and Onion Diced Blend testing positive for E. coli O157:H7 in a sample taken by the Montana Department of Health.


Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. initiated the voluntary recall when five preliminary analysis tests run by the Montana Public Health Laboratory all indicated the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in a sample of a celery and onion mix made by Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc., and collected from a Montana Costco.


The celery and onion mix was made by Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. for use in Costco Rotisserie Chicken Salad. This salad has been linked to a multi-state outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses and has been removed from Costco stores. This salad is currently not in production.

The ongoing investigation has not identified a specific ingredient responsible for the illnesses.


According to the CDC, as of November 23, 2015, a total of 19 ill people have been reported in seven states: California (1), Colorado (4), Missouri (1), Montana (6), Utah (5), Virginia (1), and Washington (1). Ill people range in age from 5 years to 84, with a median age of 18. There have been five reported hospitalizations and two reports of a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). There have been no reported deaths.


The symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. If there is fever, it usually is not very high (less than 101 degrees Fahrenheit /less than 38.5 degrees Celsius). Most people get better within 5–7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.


A list of products Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. has recalled is available here.  [Editor's Note: Taylor Farms Pacific recalled 71 products sold by several major retailers such as Safeway, Target, Starbucks, and Wal-Mart.]


Additionally, on November 20, 2015, Costco reported to the FDA that it removed rotisserie chicken salad from all stores in the U.S. and stopped further production of the product until further notice. Consumers who purchased rotisserie chicken salad from any Costco store in the U.S. on or before November 20, 2015, should not eat it and should throw it away. Even if some of the rotisserie chicken salad has been eaten and no one has gotten sick, throw the rest of the product away. This product has a typical shelf life of three days and is labeled “Chicken Salad made with Rotisserie Chicken” with item number 37719.


A picture of the product label is available here.


Consumers who have questions about the Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. recall may call 209-830-3141 Monday to Friday, except holidays, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (PST).


Consumers with questions about the rotisserie chicken salad may want to contact Costco customer service at consumer affairs department toll free at 1-800-774-2678 Monday through Friday, between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. (PST), and Saturday and Sunday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (PST).


Source: "FDA Investigates Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O157 Infections Linked to Rotisserie Chicken Salad from Costco"  "Recalled Diced Celery and Onion Blend May Not Be E. Coli Source" - .VmnQKzayRaM


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