GARDEN CITY, N.Y. – Attorneys for an 11-year-old boy who became sick after eating at a Taco Bell allegedly contaminated with the E. coli bacteria have filed a negligence lawsuit against the restaurant chain.
The suit is believed to be the first resulting from an E. coli outbreak that has sickened scores of Taco Bell patrons in at least three U.S. states. It does not seek specific monetary damages.
The Mexican fast-food chain removed scallions from all 5,800 of its restaurants Wednesday after preliminary tests linked them to the bacteria.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it was gathering samples of all non-meat items served in the restaurants that could carry the pathogen — including cilantro, cheddar cheese, blended cheese, green onions, yellow onions, tomatoes and lettuce — and planned to test them.
At least 46 confirmed cases of E. coli sickness linked to Taco Bell have been reported in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, and at least five people remained hospitalized.
Federal officials said late Wednesday there are possible cases in Delaware and Connecticut as well.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday night on behalf of Tyler Vormittag, 11, who became ill after eating three tacos with cheese and lettuce at the Taco Bell on Nov. 24, said attorney Andrew Siben.
Siben said the boy had to be hospitalized. He was released from the hospital on Nov. 29 and is back in school.
A Taco Bell spokeswoman said the company had no immediate comment on the lawsuit. The California-based chain is a subsidiary of Yum Brands Inc.
McLane Co., which distributes food to the region's Taco Bells, said federal investigators planned to test green onions, regular onions, cilantro, tomatoes and lettuce from its southern New Jersey warehouse.
E. coli, short for Escherichia coli, is a common and ordinarily harmless intestinal bacteria. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the strain of E. coli that caused the infections is often found in the intestines of healthy goats, sheep and cattle, and most infections are associated with undercooked meat.
It can be passed from person to person if people do not take steps such as thoroughly washing their hands.