Orange County Public Health Services announced yesterday that at least seven people had become ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections after eating at a buffet-type restaurant in Lake Forest, California. Six of the people with reported E. coli infections became ill after dining at the restaurant on March 23rd or 24th. Three of the victims have been hospitalized.
The Orange County Health Care Agency and the California Department of Health Services are investigating the outbreak, but have not yet determined which food served at the restaurant was contaminated with E. coli. According to an Associated Press report, foods served at this chain of Orange County restaurants are prepared at a central kitchen, which supplies nine restaurants. No E. coli illnesses have been reported from diners at other of the chain’s restaurants in Orange County.
“More has to be done to ensure the safety of our food supply,” said attorney William Marler, who is representing 93 victims of last year’s spinach E. coli outbreak and over 4,500 victims of the Salmonella outbreak that was traced to contaminated peanut butter. “Consumer confidence has been shaken, and we need to know that the food we’re putting into our bodies, whether at home or in restaurants, is not contaminated with pathogenic bacteria that could kill us.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 73,000 cases of Escherichia coli O157:H7, or E. coli, occur annually in the United States. Every year, 2,100 Americans are hospitalized, and 61 people die as a direct result of E. coli infections and its complications.