Shredded lettuce has emerged as the most likely source of the bacteria that have sickened at least 71 people who ate at Taco Bells in four states, federal health officials said yesterday.
“Could it change? It’s possible,” said Christopher Braden, a medical epidemiologist with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “but we’re fairly confident in the information.”
The assertion is not based on evidence from testing but rather from the CDC’s statistical analysis of what victims ate compared with what was eaten by companions who did not get sick.
The statistical evidence pointed to lettuce, cheese and ground beef, Braden said yesterday in a conference call. However, the cheese is pasteurized and the beef is cooked, leaving raw lettuce as the most likely vehicle.
If lettuce is confirmed as the source of the outbreak, it would be the 21st time since 1995 that leafy green vegetables had caused an outbreak of food-borne illness, according to the federal Food and Drug Administration.