More Tainted Produce Is Making People Sick

Wednesday, December 6th 2006, 10:20 am
By: News On 6

Two national restaurant chains are acting with "an abundance of caution" after tainted produce turned up in some of their stores. The Jamba Juice chain has pulled strawberries from its smoothie menu because of listeria, while Taco Bell has nixed green onions because of E.coli.

News on 6 anchor Tami Marler explains what it could mean to you.

Health inspectors tracked the dangerous strain of E.coli to green onions at Taco Bell restaurants. The fast food chain isn't talking about the source of the tainted onions. "Sometimes people are ill and they don't know it. They're shedding the organisms in their stool, not washing their hands properly." Elizabeth Nutt says the Tulsa City-County Health Department would be among the first to know if foodborne bacteria were detected in Oklahoma.

Even though the recent spinach scare didn't affect area retailers, she says health inspectors were on alert. Sharon Stroud with Wild Oats Market: "We just went out as a precaution to make sure that the customers that had possibly received any of that product had gotten notified and had pulled the product off of the shelves and they had."

Dangerous bacteria typically shows up in meat products. But more recently has infected produce. Jamba-Juice has pulled frozen strawberries from its smoothie menu after the fruits tested positive for listeria in three western states. Foodborne bacteria can come from any number of sources.

Sharon Stroud: "Wild animal manure, contaminated irrigation waters or even an infected worker." "You can do all the washing you can but if there's two or three, ten organisms on the product, you could become ill." "The grapefruit seed extract that's in this kills all different types of bacteria's."

Sharon Stroud says she always washes her fruits and vegetables, regardless of assurances or warnings. "Soap and water, vinegar, veggie washes are available that have a hydrochloric acid solution. I've used hydrogen peroxide."

Stroud also says she buys organically grown produce as often as possible. And always from US growers. "The type of manure that organic farmers typically use is from animals that eat grasses. They're not meat eaters. Meat eaters typically have E.coli in their manure. They do use human manure in a lot of other countries and we can get other types of bacteria's; not just E.coli, but salmonella and others."

Taco Bell has not identified the supplier of the infected onions, so it's not clear whether they reached other areas. If you have questions or concerns call 1-800-TACO-BELL.

Jamba-Juice immediately halted all shipments from the strawberry producer that tested positive for listeria. No Oklahoma stores are affected and no illnesses have been reported.