HEALTH

Mexican food trucks in Washington State linked to E. coli cases

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Health officials in Washington State are investigating six cases of E. coli that have been linked to Mexican food trucks that serve several farmers’ markets in Seattle.

According to KIRO 7 News, at least three people have been hospitalized, including a 4-year-old girl, after eating food from Los Chilangos' truck last month.

Health department officials from Seattle's King County said a cease-and-desist order is in place after inspecting the two food trucks operated by Los Chilangos and the Eastside Commercial Kitchen they use. The order was issued on Aug. 27.

“Recognizing that this lapse in operation hurts business, our team has worked diligently with these vendors to find new places for them to resume their work and remind them about important food safety measures,” health officials said in a statement on Tuesday.

KIRO 7 News reported that Los Chilangos serves food at seven farmers and also caters events.

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Deanna Buder told the TV station her 4-year-old daughter started experiencing pain and swelling in her abdomen, and stopped eating. She has been at Seattle Children’s Hospital for more than a week.

The food trucks’ owners told reporters they are working with the health department to determine where the cross-contamination may have occurred. Twelve employees have been checked and all came up negative for E. coli.

"I feel horrible," Noemi Mendez told KomoNews.com. "And I apologize. I feel like, you know, it's my responsibility, but also I don't feel like I'm to blame here."

They added that this is the first such problem they’ve had in more than nine years in business.

Health officials said in a statement that the owners “deserve credit for this dutiful cooperation” during the investigation.

“No food vendor wants to make people sick, and we know everyone is very concerned about the people who have become ill,” they wrote.

According to the Los Chilangos’ owners, health officials believe the contamination could have been from the cilantro, which is currently being tested. However, it could have come from other sources.

Cilantro from Mexico was recently linked to foodborne illnesses in 29 states, though the outbreak was caused by a single-cell parasite called Cyclospora, not E. coli.

“We are still investigating the source of the E. coli,” health officials said in a statement. “If we determine that a food contained the E. coli bacteria, we will try to trace it back to stores, suppliers, and even farms to address the root of the problem with corrective actions, if possible.”

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