Health Officials: E. Coli Believed Traced to a Wendy’s Lettuce

August 10, 2006

E. coli infections among people attending a conference in Ogden, Utah, in June are believed to have come from lettuce provided by a Wendy’s restaurant, health officials said.

The CORE Academy conference held June 27-30 at Orion Junior High School in Harrisville was catered by the Wendy’s restaurant at 2594 N. 400 East in North Ogden, the Weber-Morgan Health Department disclosed this week.

The Standard-Examiner had requested the information under the Government Records Access and Management Act.

The conference was attended by 300 people. Sixty-nine people reported stomach and diarrhea symptoms, which may have been from E. Coli, but they did not visit a medical facility so there was no laboratory confirmation.

Four people who sought medical help had E. Coli confirmed by lab tests. Three of the four were traced directly or indirectly to the conference. The fourth case was an individual who ate at the Wendy’s for three straight days during that same time period.

Three of the four individuals were diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome, the most severe type of E. coli infection.

A teacher said her 6-year-old son was one of the HUS cases and he got the bacteria from her after she attended the conference. She and other family members also were sick with diarrhea and vomiting.

“We believe that this disease outbreak is over,” said Gary House, director of the health department.

The Wendy’s has since been inspected and found to be in compliance with food safety standards, House said.

House said the department would have immediately closed the restaurant and alerted the public if they had found an immediate or ongoing risk to public health.

Denny Lynch, spokesman for Wendy’s International, said, “This was an isolated incident at this one location.”

He said corporate officials inspect each restaurant every quarter, with local managers and area supervisors inspecting them more frequently.

Wendy’s has tried to determine the source of the infected lettuce, but has been unable to do so because inspections from the health department confirm that the restaurant is in compliance with health standards.

“We know something didn’t go right. We are investigating the procedures to see what might have gone awry,” Lynch said.

“We are extremely sorry for the people who became sick after eating at our restaurant in North Ogden. It’s an unfortunate situation that has caused us great concern, because we understand we are responsible to provide safe and healthy food.”

On average, the health department inspects restaurants every six months, unless there is a reason to do so more frequently, House said. Since Wendy’s was found in compliance during its last inspection, it will not be inspected by the health department again for another five months.

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